Reactions to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009

Signed by President Obama Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2009, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) is intended to help with economic recovery. Of the $787B of initiatives in the ARRA, more than $100B is provided for education. Included in that money is $77B to help stem education cuts; bolster funds for Title I, IDEA, and Early Childhood programs; and to offer competitive incentive grants. More money is set aside for college affordability, including money for Pell Grants and tuition tax credits, and up to $33.6B is included for additional school modernization.

The education provisions in the ARRA are meant to help save or create jobs in states at risk of cuts. Reforms through standards and assessments, upgrades in data systems, and investment in initiatives for teacher and principal quality help meet long- and short-term education goals. More information on this, including timelines and guidance for states and districts, will be available over the next week from the Department of Education at their Website, www.ed.gov.

While we continue to receive updates on the ARRA in the form of press releases and through the news about provisions included in 1,071-page law, this month we decided to collect some responses, both positive and not so enthusiastic, to the education provisions in the ARRA.

In a Feb. 18, 2009 release, Education Secretary Arne Duncan calls the ARRA “a historic opportunity to create jobs and advance education reform.” He continues, “These investments are the surest way to provide long-term stability in to our economy. With these funds, we will educate our way to a stronger economy.”

The American Association of School Administrators (ASSA) issued a statement on Feb. 16, 2009. It states, “Congress made a critical investment in America’s children and the nation’s economy by passing President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. This measure provides essential funding for schools during a time of severe budget shortfalls. It promises to help cash-strapped school districts avoid program cuts, prevent teacher layoffs, invest in school modernization, and increase funding for Title I, special education, and other important programs for children nationwide.

“The bill recognizes that public schools are an integral component of economic recovery and growth. Investing in a strong public school system is sound economic policy because it produces a strong workforce, fueling the economic diversity essential to a recovering economy.”

While the final version of the ARRA does not include the amount of funding for school construction present in the original House version, ASSA feels “this bill is an important step toward protection American children from devastating program and staffing cuts… With budget deadlines looming, states can’t afford to wait to receive this critical funding.”

Marvin Malecha, FAIA, president of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) says in a Feb. 15, 2009 release, “Now that the economic stimulus bill is finalized, architects and design and construction professionals are ready to work closely with state and local officials to help them use these resources effectively…The bill funds infrastructure projects to create thousands of jobs — right away — in industries devastated by the economic crisis. And, if executed smartly, the benefits of the investment will last for decades.” Malecha discusses the need for energy efficiency in building as well as the need for continued funding. “This bill is just a down payment,” he says, “and we will continue fighting for additional investment to make sure our nation has a 21st century infrastructure for a 21st-century economy.”

Malecha concludes, “Our goal must be not to just build better, greener buildings, modern schools, and a transportation system that strengthens communities.”

Center for Education Reform president Jeanne Allen’s Feb. 14 statement includes a discussion of the lack of incentives for states to improve student achievement. Allen says, “While the economic stimulus may provide jobs for some Americans and make available to states an infusion of funds to shore up their budget deficits, by and large, the education portion of the package misses the mark by a wide margin. Student achievement, the purpose of our nation’s schools, is not an explicit or implicit requirement of the new stimulus spending for education, which mainly provides an immediate influx of funding for the construction of new school facilities and the preservation of teachers’ jobs, even for those who fail our children on a daily basis.” Allen concludes, “Until Congress and the Administration make a commitment to change more than just the façade of our public schools and to relive our students of the status quo shackle of ineffective education policies, the economic revival so sorely needed in America will, sadly, be a long time in coming.”


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