What Education Activities Are Eligible for Funding?
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or stimulus package, is an emergency spending plan designed to generate economic activity to prevent further
deterioration of an already severe contraction of the U.S. and global economies.
Approximately $100 billion of the stimulus package’s $787 billion total is devoted
to education programs. Fundamentally, the education funding’s purpose is twofold:
to help states address their budget deficits—education is one of the largest expenditures—and to forestall teacher layoffs at the local level.
In addition, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has signaled a third priority for this
unprecedented federal infusion of education funding: reform. More than just backfilling state budget cuts or saving teaching jobs, Duncan wants states and districts to use
the education investments for activities that promote student achievement.
According to guidelines issued by the U.S. Department of Education, states must
apply their stimulus money to make progress in these reform areas:
1. 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.
2. Establishing prekindergarten to college and career data systems that track
progress and foster continuous improvement.
3. Improving teacher effectiveness and the equitable distribution of qualified
teachers for all students, particularly students who are most in need.
4. Providing intensive support and effective interventions for the lowest-performing schools.
Moreover, the one-time nature of the stimulus funding, all of which must be spent
by September 2011 at the latest, necessitates expenditures on activities that do not
result in ongoing or recurring expenses beyond that date. After September 2011,
districts would be solely responsible for costs.
The combination of factors—the large investment, an emphasis on improving
teacher effectiveness, and the temporary aspect of the funding—suggests a unique
and historic opportunity for state and local education leaders to elevate the quality
of the teaching profession by using a significant amount of the stimulus funds for
professional development activities.