Education Department Opens Up Stimulus Fund Floodgates

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The United States Department of Education reported Wednesday that stimulus package funds for education amounting to $44 billion are now available for schools and states.

Specific funds made available under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act include $32.5 billion in State Fiscal Stabilization Funds (60.6 percent of the total provided by the stimulus package), $6 billion for IDEA (about half of the total provided by the stimulus package), and $5 billion for Title I, Part A (of the $13 billion total provided by the stimulus package). The funds are to be used to "improve student achievement through school improvement and reform," according to ED.

"Every dollar we spend must advance reforms and improve learning. We are putting real money on the line to challenge every state to push harder and do more for its children," said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in a prepared statement released today.

He also emphasized that the funds are to be used in a transparent way.

"Given our economic circumstances, it's critical that money go out quickly but it's even more important that it be spent wisely," Duncan said. "The first step toward real and lasting reform that will ensure our students' competitiveness begins with absolute transparency and accountability in how we invest our dollars, educate our children, evaluate our teachers, and measure our success. We must be much more open and honest about what works in the classroom and what doesn't."

He continued: "Under the law passed by Congress, the top priority for these dollars is to do right by our schools and our kids. If states play games with these funds, the second round of stabilization funds could be in jeopardy and they could eliminate their state from competitive grant money. This money must be spent in the best interests of children."

To this end, guidelines are being released for states requiring them to report the number of jobs saved by recovery funds and to demonstrate other measures showing progress toward educational improvements. These include:

  • Proof of improvements in teacher effectiveness;
  • "Commitments" on the part of states that schools employ "highly qualified teachers";
  • A demonstration that schools are moving toward "college- and career-ready standards";
  • Progress toward "rigorous assessments that will improve both teaching and learning";
  • Proof that schools are providing "intensive support and effective intervention" in low-performing schools; and
  • Implementation of effective data systems and information-gathering systems for tracking progress.

A set of metrics has been sent out to state governors by the Department of Education. The metrics will be released for public comment in the Federal Register this month, after which a final set of metrics will be released.

Applications for the funds are being accepted now. According to ED, funds will be released within two weeks of an application's approval.

Beyond the $44 billion being released now, $17.3 billion will be available starting July 1 for Pell Grants and work-study funds, and $35 billion will be distributed between July 1 and Sept. 30 for "Title 1, IDEA, and State Fiscal Stabilization Funds, as well as monies for other programs...."

In addition, according to ED, $4.35 billion is being allocated in a third round of funding for the department's Race to the Top fund, which is designed "to help states with bold plans to improve student achievement." Another $650 million is being made available to "assist school districts and non-profit organizations with strong track records of improving student achievement."

Additional information, including guidance and fact sheets, can be found here.

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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