Schools wrestle with how to spend stimulus funds
Should they launch new programs to help kids or try to save jobs threatened by tough economic times?
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The stimulus plan provides $54 billion in new federal dollars for a State Fiscal Stabilization Fund to replace state spending cuts, including $8.8 billion for priority initiatives of governors that could include education.Skip to next paragraph
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Another $13 billion in stimulus funding will boost programs to help schools serving poor families under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and $12 billion is assigned to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
But Washington also wants to use stimulus funding to leverage changes in how schools operate. To be eligible for a second round of funding, states and local school districts must demonstrate that they are also serious about reform.
"If you're just filling gaps, filling holes, that will disqualify you from other dollars," Duncan told urban school leaders, who met with Obama administration officials in the White House on Monday.
At the heart of the Obama administration's reform agenda is college- and career-ready standards and establishing better data systems to track student progress. In addition, states and school districts must demonstrate that they are shifting teaching talent to the lowest performing schools.
Both the Bush and Clinton administrations made a case for higher standards. The Bush administration required testing in reading and math for Grades 3, 5, and 8. But the Obama Education Department wants to move US schools to extend standards and accountability all the way to teachers and the schools that train them.
"We want to know which teachers are really adding value, and we need to track teachers back to their schools of education," he said on Sunday. "Some schools of education are doing a great job helping teachers come to the profession ready to learn and ready to drive student achievements and others aren't."
In Pennsylvania, the new stimulus money means the $300 million budget for education announced in February has been increased to $418 million. But noting that the funds run out in two years, Gov. Edward Rendell (D) is urging local school districts to use the funding for "legacy" projects, such as school repair or teacher training.
But Philadelphia Superintendent Arlene Ackerman says that the stimulus gives urban schools "a chance for real innovation," including regional early childhood centers. "We wouldn't have been able to focus on initiatives like that without stimulus funding," she says.