Special Report
States

State-Level Impact of Stimulus Said Mixed

By Michele McNeil — December 08, 2009 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The vast majority of states plan to apply for $4 billion in Race to the Top Fund grants, even though they admit they’re struggling to improve teacher quality and low-performing schools—two core reform areas in the federal economic-stimulus program and the Obama administration’s education agenda.

What’s more, according to a new report by the Center on Education Policy, more than half the states report that their capacity to carry out stimulus-related education changes is a “major problem.”

In the report released last week, the Washington-based center offers a glimpse into how states and school districts are implementing the education pieces of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed by Congress in February.

The report, titled “An Early Look at the Economic Stimulus Package and the Public Schools,” is the first installment in a three-year research project the nonprofit research and policy group is conducting on the impact of the stimulus law. The report mirrors anecdotal evidence and stimulus-reporting data that show the program so far is mostly bolstering state budgets, while the impact on education improvement is less clear.

The roughly $100 billion in education aid to be doled out under the larger stimulus package is supposed to be focused on four key reform areas, or “assurances,” states had to make to qualify for a significant portion of the money. Those areas are teacher quality; data systems and the use of data; standards and assessments; and turnarounds of the lowest-performing schools.

Jack Jennings, the president of the Center on Education Policy, said, “Schools and the federal government seem to have a common reform agenda for education.”

Uneven Progress

Data from 44 states and the District of Columbia show that states are farther along in making progress in the areas of data and standards and assessments than in the other “assurance” areas.

See a state-by-state breakdown of funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Thirty-three states, for example, said they were considering adopting the “common core” standards in mathematics and English/language arts being developed under an effort spearheaded by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Although 48 states have signed on to that initiative, the CEP report found that of the 44 states plus the District of Columbia that responded, seven states were undecided about whether to adopt them, and that two of the 45 respondents said they weren’t considering adopting the standards.

The report notes that movement in those areas was under way before the stimulus package was passed. Those two areas generally involve straightforward, state-level policy changes.

The two areas where states reported they were having the most difficulty—teacher quality and low-performing schools—are more complicated and much more dependent on local school districts, schools of education, and other groups, Mr. Jennings points out.

Gene Wilhoit, the executive director of the Washington-based education chiefs’ organization, the CCSSO, agreed. Those issues are “harder, they’re more complex. How far can you go with legislation to require excellence?”

The report also suggests that states are relying on traditional strategies to make educational improvements. In the area of teacher quality, for example, 30 states reported that they planned to use stimulus funds for professional development.

The question is whether federal Department of Education officials, who are in charge of the Race to the Top competition, will want to see bolder reforms, said Mr. Jennings, a former longtime aide to Democrats on the education committee of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has insisted that in order to win Race to the Top funding, states will have to push the envelope, and set a high bar for education reforms.

There will be a lot of competition for Race to the Top. In the report, 41 respondents said their states were planning to apply for Race to the Top grants. At the same time, 24 states reported that state capacity limits were a “major problem” in making progress in the four reform areas.

Capacity issues in state education departments are forcing education chiefs to redeploy existing staff and resources in new directions, Mr. Wilhoit said. “In this economic downturn, it’s been a lot easier for a legislature to go after state education agency funds than the schools,” he said.

Intense interest in Race to the Top, despite all of the demanding requirements, can be attributed at least in part to the dire budget conditions. “States badly need the money,” Mr. Jennings said.

The report reiterates what other reports and organizations have found: State finances are expected to get worse. Fourteen states said they expected funding for K-12 education to decrease this fiscal year, compared with fiscal 2009.

A version of this article appeared in the December 09, 2009 edition of Education Week as State-Level Impact of Stimulus Said Mixed

Events

English-Language Learners Webinar Helping English-Learners Through Improved Parent Outreach: Strategies That Work
Communicating with families is key to helping students thrive – and that’s become even more apparent during a pandemic that’s upended student well-being and forced constant logistical changes in schools. Educators should pay particular attention
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
Mathematics Webinar
Addressing Unfinished Learning in Math: Providing Tutoring at Scale
Most states as well as the federal government have landed on tutoring as a key strategy to address unfinished learning from the pandemic. Take math, for example. Studies have found that students lost more ground
Content provided by Yup Math Tutoring
Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue

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

States Education Can Be a Winning Path for GOP, Says Incoming Virginia Governor
A newcomer to politics, Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin won in a strongly Democratic state by tapping into culture war fights over school curricula.
3 min read
Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona, left, speaks to reporters while Gov.-elect Glen Youngkin, of Virginia, Govs. Greg Abbott, of Texas, and Kim Reynolds and Pete Ricketts, of Nebraska, listen at the Republican Governors Association meeting in Phoenix on Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021. Governors, donors and strategists were riding high on Youngkin’s victory this month in a state Democratic President Joe Biden won by 10 points. (AP Photo/Jonathan J. Cooper)
States How a Website to Complain About Teachers Is Fueling the Critical Race Theory Fight
It was pitched as an effort to strengthen anti-discrimination laws, but critics say it aims to reject any discussion of systemic racism.
2 min read
Frank Edelblut speaks at the Statehouse in Concord, N.H. on Jan. 31, 2017, during a public hearing on his nomination to lead the state's education department. As first-term Gov. Chris Sununu builds out his cabinet of commissioners, he's tapped some appointees with little to no professional experience in the departments they're tasked with leading. For education, he tapped Edelblut, a businessman who homeschooled his children.
Frank Edelblut speaks at the Statehouse in Concord, N.H. on Jan. 31, 2017, during a public hearing on his nomination to lead the state's education department. As first-term Gov. Chris Sununu builds out his cabinet of commissioners, he's tapped some appointees with little to no professional experience in the departments they're tasked with leading. For education, he tapped Edelblut, a businessman who homeschooled his children.
Elise Amendola/AP Photo
States Opinion 5 Takeaways for Education From Virginia's Governor Race
In an election where K-12 schooling was widely seen as the central issue, Glenn Youngkin’s victory has important implications for schools.
5 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
States Anxiety Over Schools Fired Up Voters This Year. What About 2022?
Election results from Virginia, New Jersey, and elsewhere suggest educators and schools will be firmly in the spotlight next year.
10 min read
Virginia Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin holds a broom as he greets supporters at an election night party in Chantilly, Va., early Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021, after he defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe.
Virginia Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, holds a broom as he greets supporters at an election night party in Chantilly, Va., after he defeated Democratic challenger Terry McAuliffe.
Andrew Harnik/AP