Monday, October 5, 2009

Stimulus, states, and reform (again)

An internal watchdog at the Education Department says states are using money from the economic stimulus to plug budget holes instead of boosting aid for schools.

President Barack Obama did not intend for state lawmakers to simply cut state education spending and replace it with stimulus dollars.

But Congress made that tough to enforce, and the Education Department's Inspector General said in a memo Thursday that some states are doing it.

That's how EdWeek sums up a report issued last week on how fiscal stabilization dollars are being. I think that version is missing the main story.

The actual Inspector General report applies the rules voted on by House and Senate and signed into law by the President. It does not challenge states that are planning 2009, 2010, and 2011 spending to match the 2006 level--because the law allows that.

Instead, the report challenges the federal department with two recommendations.

First, USED should be tracking state funding both to identify cuts states are making and to be sure those cuts maintain the 2006 level of effort.

Second, USED should not hand out the second installment of the stabilization dollars without evidence that states are carrying out four other ARRA mandates, the ones that require participating states to:

1. increase teacher effectiveness and address inequities in the equitable distribution of highly qualified teachers,
2. implement statewide data systems that track pre-K-through-career progress and foster continuous improvement,
3. make progress towards rigorous standards and high-quality assessments, and
4. provide intensive support and effective interventions to struggling schools.
The core issue is federal monitoring of funding and enforcement of reform requirements--and not state cuts as such.

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Updates and data on Kentucky education!