Senate, House Look To Reconcile Stimulus Packages; School Modernization up in the Air

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[Editor's note: Updated information on the stimulus package can be found here. --D.N.]

The United States Senate passed its version of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 Tuesday, 61-37. The Senate version of the stimulus package differs from the original House version in some significant ways that impact K-12 education--in particular in the area of school construction. Now Senators will work with members of the House to arrive at a compromise plan.

The Senate's version of the stimulus package introduced compromises that reduced the original bill's allocations targeted toward education-related programs; nevertheless, education technology came out ahead, with an increase in funding that brings EETT to its highest level ever.

The EETT program (Enhancing Education Through Technology) is part of Title II Part D of the No Child Left Behind Act, designed to support the deployment and integration of educational technology into classroom instruction. Under NCLB, it has provided the sole source of federal funding specifically supporting education technologies. And, during the Bush years, it had consistently been a target for budget cuts. It's highest level of funding was $696 million in 2004, which decreased to $267.5 million in FY 2008. But under the terms of the new stimulus packages as passed so far in both the House and Senate, EETT will receive an extra $1 billion.

However, school construction is still up in the air. The original House bill called for $14 billion for K-12 school modernization, and the Senate's bill at one point had the figure at $16 billion. However, in the compromise bill, school modernization was cut completely. (The online publication Pro Publica has a breakdown of the cost of the cuts to each individual district. You can search for specific school districts here.)

It's unknown at this time how school modernization will fare in the reconciled version of the bill. But President Barack Obama has continued to push for improved school facilities in speeches delivered Monday and Tuesday. In a press conference Monday night, President Obama invoked the image of a dilapidated school and asked, "... [W]hy wouldn't we want to build state of the art schools with science labs that are teaching our kids the skills they need for the 21st century, that will enhance our economy, and, by the way, right now will create jobs?" (A transcript of this press conference can be found here.)

There are several other, less substantial differences between the House and Senate bills as well. A list of differences between the two versions of the stimulus package follows.

Differences Between Senate and House Stimulus Packages for K-12 Education
Program House Senate Difference in Senate Bill
Title 1 $13 billion $12.4 billion -$600 million
IDEA (special education) $13.6 billion $13.5 billion -$100 million
Education for homeless children $66 million $70 million +$4 million
Teacher incentive fund $200 million $0 -$200 million
K-12 school modernization program $14 billion $0 -$14 billion
Head start/early start $2.1 billion $1.05 billion -$1.05 billion
Advanced broadband program $1.825 billion $6.65 billion +$4.825 billion

About the Author

David Nagel is the executive producer for 1105 Media's online K-12 and higher education publications and electronic newsletters. He can be reached at dnagel@1105media.com. He can now be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/THEJournalDave (K-12) or http://twitter.com/CampusTechDave (higher education). You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=10390192.

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