The economy is in the tank and for the last year or so politicians have been scrambling to craft a rescue package (ie, spend a lot of money) in the hopes of giving business as usual a big boost to keep it going.
Now that Obama has been sworn in to the presidency, he hasn’t wasted any time to put together a spending plan of his own. Education is a big part of this bill, but that doesn’t mean that everyone is happy to see extra money being applied to schools. Let’s take a look…
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009
Here’s the official name of the Obama stimulus plan. Of course, there’s an argument being made by Republicans that the legislation isn’t actually stimulus, but looking at the title you can see that this is intended to be something other than a quick fix – it is a plan to reinvest tax money back with the people and structures of society. As I’m interested in… education.
The first big winner named in the legislation is scientists researching at public labs or universities. The bill provides $3.6 billion dollars for scientific research, and at least $250 million of that is required to go toward earth science and climate-related studies. This could be a big boost for America’s recently sluggish research – but this isn’t necessarily money that is going to make it to students in undergraduate classes and grade school. Only $100 million of this science budget goes directly toward education.
Schools and Deptartment of Education
The federal Department of Education receives a huge boost in available funds. The following programs are slated for additional funding: In total, about $80 billion dollars over two years.
- Education for the Disadvantaged
- Impact Aid
- School Improvement Programs
- Innovation and Improvement
- Special Education
- Rehabilitation Services and Disability Research
- Student Financial Assistance
- Student Aid Administration
- Higher Education
- Institute of Education Sciences
- School Modernization, Renovation, and Repair
- Higher Education Modernization, Renovation, and Repair
Subsidized student loan limits and free Pell Grant amounts also get a lift – this is good news for the college students attending school over the next few years (if it passes)
State Budget Relief
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 also provides money to assist the state budgets in shortfall. As I’ve reported previously, Florida and California are among the states hardest hit by the recent financial crisis related to housing – and education has been one of the biggest losers in the deal. The legislation to prop up state budgets also requires that a certain amount of that money goes directly to education. It is being estimated that such an infusion of money to the states could benefit Georgia’s education accounts with as much as $2 billion for state schools.
And the Problems, Too
It sounds great to rattle off a list of billions of dollars being directed toward education. Obviously, as I spend time running this site school is important to me and I think that teaching future generations is essential to our society’s success, but there are still legitimate concerns about the bill. Many have accused the legislation of being loaded with pork – and indeed, much of the non-education funds are directed toward causes that are typically associated to political patronage.
Some are even worried that such a stimulus bill will have a negative impact on reforming education in America – simply spending more money on teachers, students, and schools doesn’t necessarily translate into better returns on that education investment.
Of course, there is also a lingering question of where this money will come from. Will taxes come up and threaten the economy further? Will we borrow more money from our own citizens’ future or find foreign investors willing to buy our debt? Either way, this same students we’re trying to help are likely to be stuck with the bill.