Schools Would Get Big Boost in Stimulus Plan
By Alyson Klein- Education Week
Cash-strapped school districts could see an unprecedented $100 billion infusion of federal aid under a massive economic-stimulus package unveiled by House Democrats this week.
The overall measure, put forth Jan. 15 by the House Appropriations Committee, is aimed at providing a $825 billion jolt to the stumbling U.S. economy, and to help avert what could be draconian cuts in state and local programs, including education.
The more than $100 billion in federal spending for education in the stimulus bill would be nearly double the entire $59.2 billion discretionary budget for the U.S. Department of Education in fiscal 2008.
The K-12 education funding would come from various components of the stimulus package. The legislation includes a $79 billion fund to help states to prevent cuts in services, the bulk of which is slated for education. On top of that, the measure outlines specific aid for school construction, support for early-childhood education, and substantial spending boosts for major Education Department programs, including Title I grants for educating disadvantaged students and aid for special education.
“We really have turned a corner here. This is a new era for education funding,” assuming the plan is enacted, said Edward R. Kealy, the executive director of the Committee for Education Funding, an advocacy coalition in Washington.
Mr. Kealy, who has been lobbying for increased federal education spending for more than two decades, said he had never seen dollar amounts for schools like those in the proposed House stimulus plan.
“This makes a very strong statement that providing adequate funding for education and modernizing schools is a key part of the solution to this economic crisis,” he said. “We hope this means that we can sustain that in future years. I know that’s going to be a challenge.”
Before taking office, members of President-elect Barack Obama's staff were on Capitol Hill this month, working with lawmakers to craft the measure. The House appropriations panel is slated to consider the bill Jan. 21, and the Senate was expected to release a similar plan.