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Education Funding

Stimulus Questions Answered, Round 2: On Teachers

By Michele McNeil — February 23, 2009 3 min read
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Here’s our second installment of answers to your stimulus questions. Read Round 1 here.

1. How will teacher salary be linked to student academic performance under this package? How will this impact “highly qualified” teacher criteria?

There’s no explicit language in the stimulus package linking salary to student performance. However, the stimulus does provide an additional $200 million for the Teacher Incentive Fund under the U.S. Department of Education. This now-larger pot of money will be used, as it was before, to fund pay-for-performance programs in school districts. Read more about the program here. As to the second part of your question, one of the “assurances” that governors have to make to receive their chunk of the state stabilization money is to take steps to address equitable distribution of “highly qualified,” experienced, and in-field teachers across all schools, including in very poor schools. This has been a provision under the No Child Left Behind Act that hasn’t been very well enforced, so it will be interesting to see what education secretary Arne Duncan does about this. I did ask Duncan specifically about the equitable teacher distribution provision during C-SPAN’s Newsmakers show, and he seemed more inclined toward incentives than enforcement. Finally, the equitable-distribution requirement also asks states to “improve teacher effectiveness.” Although there are no details on how states should address teacher effectiveness; this is potentially a new direction for the federal government, which has not referenced the issue before. (Thanks to my colleague Stephen Sawchuk, who blogs over at Teacher Beat.)

2. My school district, like many, is interested in getting training in some continuous improvement initiatives to help advance student performance and hold down costs. The problem, of course, is getting the money for the training. The question is, will the new stimulus package provide monies for grants for schools to get innovative training to better their operations? If so, who would we contact, what would that type of grant be called, what is the range of the grant award, and when will it be available?

Your question illustrates that there will be a lot of money out there that can be used for a lot of different things. Ultimately, once the money trickles down to the district level, school districts will have a lot of discretion to decide how to spend the money. Some may choose to hire or re-hire teachers, some may purchase technology, or others may do the kind of professional development you’re talking about. More specifically, your district may be able to tap the new Innovation Fund, which I explained more in depth here, in Questions 2 and 3.

3. Title II is referenced in the “School Improvement Programs” section. I would appreciate any explanation.

This part of the stimulus bill sets aside $650 million for Title II D, which is the EdTech program that helps districts train teachers on technology. The money will be distributed through the existing formula, which uses Title I to distribute grants to states, which then must distribute at least 95 percent of it to local districts. Please note that this is not the $3 billion teacher quality formula state grant program.

4. How much will go to keeping jobs (since it is stimulus) and how much will go toward No Child Left Behind?

I’m guessing you’re talking about education-related jobs, such as teachers. It’s really difficult to separate the two since teachers, administrators and instructional staff all are working to meet the goals and requirements under NCLB. Even though there are set formulas that determine how much of the money will go to states, and how the money will be distributed to districts, the districts will ultimately have a lot of discretion in determining how they spend their money. A lot of districts facing tough budget cuts will probably decide to re-hire teachers, but I’ve also heard from several districts that since this is one-time money, they might decide to use it on a one-time expense (such as buying computers.) After all, hiring or re-hiring a teacher is a long-term investment.

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