Overlooked in yesterday’s inaugural hoopla was this piece by USA Today’s Greg Toppo about the potential impact of the stimulus package on schools. Education is the big winner, more than health care, energy or infrastructure projects. But, Toppo notes, there are significant strings attached: “If they want the money — and they certainly do — schools must spend at least a portion of it on a few of education advocates’ long-sought dreams.” States must develop:
• High-quality educational tests.
• Ways to recruit and retain top teachers in hard-to-staff schools.
• Longitudinal data systems that let schools track long-term progress.
Joanne Jacobs has more. Charles Barone at Swift and Change Able, has a detailed analysis and notes this will be the largest increase in ed spending in history. With $12 billion more in Title I money, that program is now “fully funded,” he writes. But Barone is underwhelmed by what he describes as programatic language in the bill that looks good on paper.
States must provide “assurances” that funds are being used to improve assessments, more efficiently collect data, and equalize the distribution of qualified teachers. But such assurances are worth about as much as the paper they are written on. States have already provided assurances on all these issues as part of their federally approved plans. All they will have to do is copy and paste language from their old plans and re-submit them. This means that with all the complaints we have heard about current assessment systems (the responsibility for which lies solely with the states) and the inequitable distribution of teachers (the responsibility for which lies with both schools and districts) and the promises for change, states and districts can take billions and billions in new federal education dollars and do more or less on these issues exactly what they are doing now.