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Domestic Spending Freeze Fail: New Budget Includes a 6.2 Percent Increase in the Education Budget

Lisa Snell
January 27, 2010, 12:20pm

Apparently, $110 billion in stimulus funds for education wasn't enough.

The Washington Post reports that

The proposal to raise federal education spending by as much as $4 billion in the next fiscal year was described by administration officials Tuesday night as the start of an effort to revamp the No Child Left Behind law enacted under President George W. Bush. Obama will highlight his school reform agenda Wednesday in the address.

The funding would include a $1.35 billion increase in Obama's "Race to the Top" competitive grants for school reform. It would also set aside $1 billion to finance an overhaul of No Child Left Behind, according to aides who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the budget proposal before its release next week.

Administration officials said they could not provide a direct comparison to current elementary and secondary education spending levels for No Child Left Behind, but they said federal education spending would rise overall by 6.2 percent.

At this point it is appropriate to link and quote Andy Smarick's must-read evaluation "Toothless Reform" of the effectivenes of the education stimulus dollars in Education Next:

The ARRA seemed to complete the constellation: an astounding $100 billion of new federal funds—nearly twice the annual budget of the U.S. Department of Education—to jump-start and sustain the improvement of America’s schools. When Duncan expressed his intention to make the very most of this once-in-a-lifetime “moon shot,” some advocates eagerly prophesied an epochal shift for reform.

The ARRA’s results to date, however, have been soberingly quotidian. So far, the vast majority of its funds have served to sustain the status quo, funding the most traditional line items and actually helping schools and districts go about their everyday business. With one notable exception (spurring long overdue changes in some state laws), the implementation of this mammoth statute has confirmed several humbling, hoary lessons of federal policymaking, including the limited ability of Uncle Sam to drive education reform.

Mike Petrilli at Fordham's Flypaper does the math and asks the $1,500 question:

So let’s do the math with the whole $110 billion education stimulus in mind. Now we’re talking $366 for every man, woman, and child. That’s almost $1,500 for a family of four.

So let me get personal: is it worth 1500 bucks to me to see a handful of states lift their charter caps, a couple more promise to take teacher evaluations seriously, and lots of states to sign a letter saying they will do national standards—unless they later decide not to?

I’m an “education reformer,” for Pete’s sake, and I gotta say: I don’t think so.

And in other news a CNN poll finds that 75 percent of Americans say much of the stimulus money wasted.


Lisa Snell is Director of Education


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