Federal agencies are releasing information and guidance on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) at a fast and furious pace. The Department of Education has a webpage that has detailed information on each of the major funding streams for education, including Title I (funding for low-income students), IDEA (special education), and the state fiscal stabilization fund. The Department articulates the basic principles guiding the education funds in the stimulus bill:
Principles: The overall goals of the ARRA are to stimulate the economy in the short term and invest in education and other essential public services to ensure the long-term economic health of our nation. The success of the education part of the ARRA will depend on the shared commitment and responsibility of students, parents, teachers, principals, superintendents, education boards, college presidents, state school chiefs, governors, local officials, and federal officials. Collectively, we must advance ARRA’s short-term economic goals by investing quickly, and we must support ARRA’s long-term economic goals by investing wisely, using these funds to strengthen education, drive reforms, and improve results for students from early learning through college. Four principles guide the distribution and use of ARRA funds:
- Spend funds quickly to save and create jobs. ARRA funds will be distributed quickly to states, LEAs and other entities in order to avert layoffs and create jobs. States and LEAs in turn are urged to move rapidly to develop plans for using funds, consistent with the law’s reporting and accountability requirements, and to promptly begin spending funds to help drive the nation’s economic recovery.
- Improve student achievement through school improvement and reform. ARRA funds should be used to improve student achievement, and help close the achievement gap. In addition, the SFSF requires progress on four reforms previously authorized under the bipartisan Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the America Competes Act of 2007:
- Making progress toward rigorous college- and career-ready standards and high-quality assessments that are valid and reliable for all students, including English language learners and students with disabilities;
- Establishing pre-K-to college and career data systems that track progress and foster continuous improvement;
- Making improvements in teacher effectiveness and in the equitable distribution of qualified teachers for all students, particularly students who are most in need; and
- Providing intensive support and effective interventions for the lowest-performing schools.
- Ensure transparency, reporting and accountability. To prevent fraud and abuse, support the most effective uses of ARRA funds, and accurately measure and track results, recipients must publicly report on how funds are used. Due to the unprecedented scope and importance of this investment, ARRA funds are subject to additional and more rigorous reporting requirements than normally apply to grant recipients.
- Invest one-time ARRA funds thoughtfully to minimize the “funding cliff.” ARRA represents a historic infusion of funds that is expected to be temporary. Depending on the program, these funds are available for only two to three years. These funds should be invested in ways that do not result in unsustainable continuing commitments after the funding expires.
Reconciling the goals of spending education dollars quickly yet effectively is an ambitious but essential challenge for all levels of government. The fact that federal departments are making a large amount of information available to the public is an encouraging sign.
OK Policy’s brief on the stimulus package provides an overview of all the funding streams contained in the bill for state and local government.