As Stimulus Funds Wane, K-12 Teachers and Students at Risk

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February 14, 2011; Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | According to the U.S. Department of Education, the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act funded 367,524 education-related jobs in 2009-2010. Those were a combination of new and existing positions but this article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette suggests that the funding was largely used to backfill education budgets and prevent “mass layoffs.”

In fact, the American Association of School Administrators has found that as of last April, 87 percent of school districts reported that they “saw no net increase in funding despite the stimulus package.” For his part, Arne Duncan, the U.S. Secretary of Education, told the Post-Gazette, “I think it helped to stave off total disaster.”

Individual states and communities stand to lose significant amounts when the stimulus runs out. In Pennsylvania, $657 million in stimulus funding flowed into its schools both in 2009-2010 and in 2010-2011. The state estimates that, overall, this translated to 8,100 jobs in education. In Clio, Mich., which received $2.6 million, Fletcher Spears, assistant superintendent is at work creating a budget that spends $170 less per student than in the current year. “Next year is gonna be the most difficult budget we’ve faced in my five-year tenure (heading up the business department). I’m very worried about next year.”

As Stimulus funds run out and states and localities are faced with their own budgetary strictures, educational systems, many of which have been encouraged and funded by the feds to innovate and reform, will likely be struggling to cover the basics.—Ruth McCambridge