Using federal economic-stimulus money for innovative school reform while also trying avoid to layoffs seems more pipe dream than reality, according to a study released last week by the American Association of School Administrators.
A total of 160 top district administrators from 37 states completed the 16-question online survey. Sixty-three percent described their districts as rural, 28 percent as suburban, and 9 percent as urban, the Arlington, Va.-based organization said.
SOURCE: American Association of School Administrators
The poll looked at how local districts have spent state stabilization money and the additional Title I and special education dollars received through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
A majority of administrators, 67 percent, said the share of the roughly $100 billion slated for education that they had received so far had primarily gone to backfill state and local budget cuts, or represented a marginal increase in their budgets.
Not only did administrators say that the inflexibility of requirements (districts have to follow federal regulations in spending) has hampered their ability to use the money in ways they think would best benefit their districts, but 53 percent said they were unable to avoid cutting core subjects and special education teaching positions, even using stimulus aid.
And while saving jobs is a major goal of the economic-stimulus law, enacted in February, superintendents said they were focusing more dollars on other, one-time costs to avoid the “funding cliff” when the money runs out in two years. Professional development was the top use for Title I and special education funds, followed by saving jobs and purchasing classroom technology.
School districts and states must account for stimulus spending separately from other sources, and leaders said that requirement adds to the amount of time spent on matters other than innovation and reform.
A version of this article appeared in the September 02, 2009 edition of Education Week