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The Makings of a Stimulus Deal

As the stimulus bill heads toward a formal conference committee meeting at 3 p.m., the House and Senate are furiously trying to work out a deal. Of course, the big education questions are: Will school construction money be restored? And will states get a big chunk of their stabilization money back? And how will the stabilization money be distributed?

In fact, Alyson is headed to the Hill now for a 1:10 p.m. press conference with Rep. George Miller, the California Democrat who is the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, New York Congressman Chuck Rangel, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The trio will push for the $16 billion in school construction money that the Senate stripped out of the stimulus package.

The Miller bunch will be the latest big names to stick their necks out for school construction. Duncan did so yesterday, and President Obama the day before. It would be embarassing for the President, his education secretary, and key members of Congress to put on the full-court press and end up losing this fight.

In the meantime, other groups are putting out their last-ditch pushes to help craft the compromise. The National Head Start Association wants the full $2.1 billion the House included. The Education Trust, which advocates for low-income students, sent a letter to the Hill encouraging negotiators not to give too much latitude to the states, which have a "long history" of "shortchanging schools."

The National Governors Association, certainly a powerhouse player on the Hill on this topic given the level of state involvement in the stimulus, offers its own compromise suggestions that include allowing governors to spend half of the state incentive grants on critical needs outside of education. NGA recommends funding these incentive grants at the $7.5 billion level of the Senate, which is half what the House wanted. The NGA also recommends, given the organization's ongoing work with common standards, taking out a Senate provision that requires states to take steps to improve state academic standards per the America COMPETES Act. What's interesting to note is that, at least according to these documents, NGA appears neutral on the school construction money (since they don't mention it in their recommendations.) Check out a summary chart of NGA's recommendations here, and a more detailed explanation here.

On that note, If you want to find out how much school construction money is at stake for your state or school district, the nonprofit journalism organization ProPublica has a handy searchable database.

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