Yesterday, we invited your questions on the stimulus and have gotten dozens. So thank you! And keep them coming...we’re going to try to get to all of them within the next several days or so. Here’s our first round of answers:
1. How much will my state/district/school be getting from the stimulus?
There are two places to look for this--but please keep in mind these are just estimates. The House Education and Labor Committee has posted estimates by state and district here. These estimates are particularly useful because they break down allocations by program—such as Title I, IDEA, education technology, etc. The education department also has estimates up for Title I and IDEA, which vary slightly from the Congressional estimates. Find those here.
2. What are the specifics on the innovation fund? (It’s being lumped in with the incentive funds in a lot of stimulus coverage).
The innovation fund is part of the $5 billion from the state stabilization fund that will go to the education department and Secretary Arne Duncan, who will award incentive and innovation grants. The innovation fund is worth $650 million. The recipients of the innovation funds will be local school districts, or a partnership between a nonprofit and one or more school districts or a nonprofit and a consortium of schools. These awards will be given out based on districts or other eligible entities that have made gains in closing the achievement gap, according to the law. School districts must also have met annual state performance measures for at least two years in a row, demonstrate academic achievement improvement for all groups of students, and make progress in a host of other things (graduation rate, high-quality teachers.) The districts must also demonstrate that they can get matching funds through partnerships with the private sector. Secretary Duncan has said he wants to use these awards, and the entire $5 billion fund, to push the “reform agenda.” If you want to read the language, go to page 438 of this very large PDF of the stimulus bill.
3. How can districts, states, etc. access funds from the “race to the top” pot? Will there be a proposal process? What types of initiatives can this money be used for?
This is related to the question above. The $5 billion pot of money is what Secretary Duncan is calling his “race to the top” fund. I already detailed the smaller innovation fund in the answer above. The rest of the fund will be awarded as “incentive grants” to states. Governors will apply, the law spells out, and must show progress in four areas: maintaining state funding for education at 2006 levels, achieving equity in teacher distribution, improving data collection and use, and improving standards and assessment. Those four areas, incidentally, are areas where governors must “assure” they’ll make progress when they take their bigger piece of the state stabilization fund. Duncan has said he’ll use the smaller incentive grants to hold states accountable for that. In calls to reporters and public appearances, Duncan seems particularly interested in improving standards. UPDATED: Just wanted to expand on this answer. The department hasn’t yet spelled out how districts and states can access these funds, which the law says shall be made available in fiscal 2010. We’ll keep you posted on that.
4. Are states supposed to restore spending to FY08 levels or FY06 levels? The legislation says different things in different places.
To qualify for state stabilization funds, states must be able to use their own state money to fund schools up to the level they were doing so in 2006. Then, they must use their federal stabilization money to backfill any cuts they made past those levels, to restore funding to Fiscal 2008 levels. This is an issue for Florida, which will seek a waiver from that 2006 “maintenance of effort.”