Education Opinion

$100 billion daydreams

By Jessica Shyu — February 17, 2009 2 min read
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Hallelujah, we are rich.

With the sweep of his pen on Tuesday, President Barack Obama will more than double the budget for education when he signs the $789 billion stimulus package. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will have a glorious $100 billion to deliver to needy schools, programs and universities.

As The New York Times describes: “The plan would shower the nation’s school districts, child care centers and university campuses with $150 billion (updated: $100 billion) in new federal spending, a vast two-year investment that would more than double the Department of Education’s current budget. The proposed emergency expenditures on nearly every realm of education, including school renovation, special education, Head Start and grants to needy college students, would amount to the largest increase in federal aid since Washington began to spend significantly on education after World War II.”

Can you even begin to imagine where this cash will go toward and what it can do? Maybe new lockers and painted walls for the dilapidated high schools in Washington, DC? Developmentally appropriate after-school programs on the Navajo Nation?
In-depth teacher training on effective special education inclusion co-teaching? Strong, standards-aligned assessments for every grade level and every content in every district? A rocking financial aid package for all the low-income students who have made it and are receiving their first college acceptance letters in the mail right around now???

My (and everyone else’s) daydreams for how to use the funds can go on forever. Because they are just that-- daydreams that won’t come true without the right folks doing the right things really, really well. The stimulus is no silver bullet, I have to remind myself, and throwing money at a problem has never fixed anything.

It will take relentless hard work, analyzing and re-analyzing to figure out what we’re doing right in classrooms and not being afraid to change what we discover is going wrong (even if it is already February and it feels impossible to change the routines in your kindergarten classroom), and most important of all, basing it all on what is best for kids. It takes really, really high-quality teaching that sticks, something that doesn’t require magic or a billion dollars to develop. It’s what many of us are already doing now-- more money will help make sure we’re able to keep up the good fight and work smarter.

We’ll let Secretary Duncan and his team take on the exciting, envious and outrageously challenging work to figure out who, what, how and when the money will go. In the meantime, let’s just focus on teaching really, really well.

(And cross our fingers that those lockers get installed before next fall.)

The opinions expressed in New Terrain are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.