ARRA Funds Demystified

Three Things You Need to Know About ARRA Monies

Three Things You Need to Know About ARRA Monies

An unprecedented $919 million dollars in federal funds for technology are being disbursed to states this summer. This substantial amount is made up of $269 million for the Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) component of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) act and $650 million through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). With the acronyms out of the way, lets examine the options states have in disbursing the funds. The guidelines for the funds have not yet been approved by all the necessary parts of the Federal government, but sufficient information has been released to give states and schools a clear direction.

Regular Versus ARRA EETT Funds
States are putting together two different Requests for Proposals (or Requests for Application) for regular EETT funds and for ARRA EETT funds. The proposals will differ because the reporting requirements for ARRA funds will be more stringent in order to comply with ARRA law than those requirements set up for regular funds. The intent and focus of the applications may be the same within a state, however the requirements, especially in reporting on how the money will be spent and its impact as it is spent, will likely vary. The good news for districts is that if you are not successful with one application, you can still go after the other.

Formula Versus Competitive
When NCLB was originally passed, states were required to divide their funds equally between a competitive grant program and the Title I formula for their states. This meant that half of the funds went directly to schools with Title I students and used the same formula as the Title I program. Districts that received funding via the Title I formula were supposed to follow the guidelines issued by the state that applied to the competitive program, but without having to compete for the funds As funding for the EETT program diminished over the years, Congress allowed states to waive the Title I requirement if they so chose. The most common reason for a waiver: some districts were receiving paltry sumsless than $100under the formula. Twelve states (AR, GA, ID, IN, IA, MO, NH, NM, PA, RI, WV, MN) allocated all of their available funds under the competitive program in the 2007 funding cycle for regular EETT funds, while three states (CT, NJ, MI) as well as the District of Columbia awarded more than 50 percent, but less than 100 percent, of their allotment under the competitive program.

All indications suggest that the states will have the option to waive the 50/50 competitive/formula requirement for both the "regular" EETT funds and for the ARRA funds. Educational Technology Directors in many states are working closely with their counterparts in Title I to coordinate their initiatives under ARRA and to discuss the merits of allocating funds either 100 percent competitive or split between competitive and the Title I formula under the EETT program. Many states have yet to make a decision.

States' Approaches to Funding
Two themes are emerging as states study their needs for how technology can improve student achievement: 21st century classrooms and professional development. In short, the 21st century classrooms approach plans to provide sufficient technological equipment, as well as professional development at the classroom level to ensure students and teachers can access and use the internet and rich media resources to enhance learning opportunities. All grants by law must ensure that at least 25 percent of the funds are spent on professional development. However, some states see the need to spend all of their EETT funds on professional development. Each of these approaches will be examined in detail in future editions of T.H.E. Savvy Administrator's ARRA Resource Center.

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