Leadership Symposium Early Bird Deadline Is Today | Join K-12 leaders nationwide for three days of empowering strategies, networking, and inspiration! Discounted pricing ends today, Feb. 23. Register now.
Special Report
Federal

Obama Signs Economic-Stimulus Package

By Alyson Klein & Michele McNeil — February 12, 2009 5 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Includes updates and/or revisions.

President Barack Obama today signed into law a $787 billion that would provide some $115 billion in aid to public education.

The bill, crafted after days of tense congressional negotiations last week, includes money to help local school districts avoid layoffs and program cuts, boosts funding for special education and programs for disadvantaged students, and offers the prospect of funding for school repairs and modernization, among other elements.

“We’re making the largest investment in education in our nation’s history,” Mr. Obama told an audience in Denver before signing the measure, saying the funds will be used to prevent teacher layoffs, train new teachers, and build modern classrooms and new school science labs, among other education needs.

Slicing the Stimulus

BRIC ARCHIVE

SOURCE: Education Week

The measure won approval Feb. 13 on a 246-183 vote in the U.S. House of Representatives, with no GOP support, and a 60-38 U.S. Senate vote, with the support of three moderate Republicans.

The amounts for education in the final version of the measure—nearly double the U.S. Department of Education’s entire $59.2 billion discretionary budget for fiscal 2009—gives the new administration and the secretary of education “credibility” with the public and with educators, just as Congress is gearing up to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act, Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, said in an interview shortly after House passage of the bill.

“I really think this changes the conversation dramatically,” Rep. Miller said. “I think it makes things a lot easier.” He said he would like to see reauthorization of the law, which many educators have criticized as underfunded, this calendar year.

Vice President Joe Biden looks on as President Barack Obama signs the economic stimulus bill during a ceremony on Feb. 17 at the Museum of Nature and Science in Denver.

Passage of the stimulus package generally came as welcome news to education groups that sometimes find themselves at odds on other policy issues.

“Any piece of legislation this large cannot be perfect,” Mary Kusler, the assistant director of government relations for the American Association of School Administrators, said of the compromise crafted by House and Senate conferees. She said she wishes Congress had stuck closer to the U.S. House of Representatives’ bill, which included about $140 billion for education. Still, she said, “I’m really excited that the final bill continues to recognize the critical role that education plays in local economies.”

Amy Wilkins, a vice president of the Education Trust, a research and advocacy group that focuses on disadvantaged and minority students, said that the final version “not only protects jobs, but also goes a long way to protecting the interests of vulnerable students.”

But GOP lawmakers warned that the stimulus package could set unrealistic expectations for future spending, and that it doesn’t do enough to spur immediate economic growth.

“The single most important thing we could do for struggling American families would be to pass a fast-acting economic stimulus package that would protect existing jobs while creating new ones,” said Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon of California, the top Republican on the education panel in statement released after the House vote. “Unfortunately, the spending package crafted in haste, and in secret, by congressional Democrats fails to focus on this central goal.”

Compromise Reached

The compromise agreement, worked out by a House and Senate conference committee, would provide $53.6 billion for a state fiscal-stabilization fund, including $39.5 billion that local school districts could use to avert staff layoffs and programmatic cutbacks and to pay for school modernization, among other purposes.

The stabilization fund would also include $5 billion under the control of the U.S. secretary of education to be given to states as bonus grants for meeting key performance measures in education.

In addition, the fund would include $8.8 billion that states could use for education and for modernization, renovation, and repair of public schools and higher education facilities, but could also direct to public safety and other pressing needs.

The $39.5 billion of the state stabilization fund for schools would first have to be used by states to “backfill” any cuts they have made to both K-12 and higher education, up to fiscal 2008 or 2009 levels. If a state didn’t have enough money to make K-12 and higher education whole, the money would have to be spread proportionally between the two.

Money in the stabilization fund would flow to states based on factors such as their populations of 5- to 24-year-olds. Any leftover money after backfilling cuts would flow to K-12 districts based on existing Title I formulas, and could be used for a host of purposes, including school modernization. New construction is not envisioned, congressional aides said.

House Democratic aides say it is hoped that the money will go out before July 1.

States also would have to put in their own money to fund schools up to 2006 levels. But states could seek waivers from the federal Education Department in cases of severe financial hardship.

$5 Billion Incentive Fund

Within the stabilization fund, a $5 billion incentive fund-administered by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan-would include $650 million for innovation grants to school districts that could be models for best practices. The innovation money would go to local districts, nonprofit organizations, or consortiums of school districts.

The agreement would also provide $10 billion for Title I programs for disadvantaged students, and $3 billion for Title I school improvement grants. And it would provide $11.7 billion for state grants for special education.

In the area of early education and child care, the agreement would provide $1.1 billion for Early Head Start and $1 billion for Head Start, plus $2 billion for the Child Care Development Block Grant.

The compromise agreement also includes $250 million for state data systems, $100 million for teacher-quality state grants, and $200 million for the Teacher Incentive Fund. It also has $650 million for educational technology, such as computers in classrooms.

The final level of education aid in the bill is a middle ground between the roughly $80 billion for education in the Senate version of the measure and the $140 billion approved by the House last month.

School construction funding—a top priority for President Barack Obama and some key lawmakers—remained a major sticking point in negotiations to the end.

The initial versions of the measure included a sizable amount of money for school construction grants-$14 billion in the House and $16 billion in the Senate.

Although that money was included in the version of the bill the House passed Jan. 28, it was jettisoned from a compromise measure that the Senate passed earlier this week. The Senate’s compromise bill was crafted to win the support of key moderate lawmakers, who expressed worries that a federally financed school construction program could set what they deemed a dangerous precedent for future spending.

The final House-Senate compromise bill includes lower levels of funding in the state fiscal-stabilization fund and smaller amounts for special education and education technology than in earlier versions.

A version of this article appeared in the February 11, 2009 edition of Education Week as Obama Signs Economic-Stimulus Package

Events

Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Science of Reading: Emphasis on Language Comprehension
Dive into language comprehension through a breakdown of the Science of Reading with an interactive demonstration.
Content provided by Be GLAD
English-Language Learners Webinar English Learners and the Science of Reading: What Works in the Classroom
ELs & emergent bilinguals deserve the best reading instruction! The Reading League & NCEL join forces on best practices. Learn more in our webinar with both organizations.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal Biden Admin. Says New K-12 Agenda Tackles Absenteeism, Tutoring, Extended Learning
The White House unveiled a set of K-12 priorities at the start of an election year.
4 min read
U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona participates in a roundtable discussion with students from Dartmouth College on Jan. 10, 2024, on the school's campus, in Hanover, N.H.
U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona participates in a roundtable discussion with students from Dartmouth College on Jan. 10, 2024, on the school's campus, in Hanover, N.H.
Steven Senne/AP
Federal Lawmakers Want to Reauthorize a Major Education Research Law. What Stands in the Way?
Lawmakers have tried and failed to reauthorize the Education Sciences Reform Act over the past nearly two decades.
7 min read
Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., left, joins Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., left, as Starbucks founder Howard Schultz answers questions about the company's actions during an ongoing employee unionizing campaign, at the Capitol in Washington, on March 29, 2023.
Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., left, joins Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., left, at the Capitol in Washington, on March 29, 2023. The two lawmakers sponsored a bill to reauthorize the Education Sciences Reform Act.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Federal Will the Government Actually Shut Down This Time? What Educators Should Know
The federal government is once again on the verge of shutting down. Here's why educators should care, but shouldn't necessarily worry.
1 min read
Photo illustration of Capitol building and closed sign.
iStock
Federal Biden Admin. Warns Schools to Protect Students From Antisemitism, Islamophobia
The U.S. Department of Education released a "Dear Colleague" letter reminding schools of their obligation to address discrimination.
3 min read
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in his office at the Department of Education on Sept. 20, 2023 in Washington.
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks during an interview in his office at the U.S. Department of Education on Sept. 20, 2023 in Washington.
Mark Schiefelbein/AP