Innovation, Reform With Stimulus Dollars a Challenge, Superintendents Say

By Dakarai I. Aarons — August 25, 2009 1 min read
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Using stimulus dollars for innovative reform while also trying to avoid layoffs seems more pipe dream than reality, according to a study released today by the American Association of School Administrators.

In the survey, 67 percent of superintendents said the share of the $100 billion slated for education that they have 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) have 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 dollars.

And while saving jobs is a major goal of the economic-stimulus law, superintendents said they were focusing more dollars on other one-time costs in order to avoid the “funding cliff” when the money runs out in two years. Professional development was the top use for Title 1 and special education funds, followed by saving jobs and purchasing classroom technology.

A total of 160 administrators from 37 states completed the 16-question survey. Sixty-three percent described their districts as rural, 28 percent as suburban, and nine percent as urban, AASA said.

School districts and states must account for stimulus spending separately from other sources, and the school leaders say this adds to the amount of time that has to be spent on things other than innovation and reform.

A report earlier this summer by the Government Accountability Office had similar findings, especially when it came to the spending of the state fiscal stabilization funds. Most of that money went to save jobs.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.