On a conference call with reporters this morning, Congressman George Miller, chair of the House Committee on Education and Labor, outlined how pre-school, K-12, and higher education will benefit from the economic recovery act the House is set to vote on today. Here are the highlights:

  • $14 billion for school modernization and repair, including investments in instructional technology and greening
  • $13 billion to economically disadvantaged school districts
  • $13 billion to school districts for special education instruction
  • $15.6 billion for Pell grants, increasing the average grant by $500
  • $6 billion for higher ed infrastructure modernization
  • $2.1 billion for Head Start, allowing an additional 124,000 children to participate and creating new jobs in the program
  • $39 billion for states to funnel to local districts, colleges, and universities

Miller said it is "difficult to tell" how far this initiative will go in terms of caulking local school budgets. Over half of estimated state budget cuts are in education. American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten, who was also on the conference call, said the situation on the ground is already dire. In New York, Mike Bloomberg is threatening to cut thousands of jobs in the schools if the city doesn't receive extra financial support from Washington and Albany. "That is equal to what happened in the fiscal crisis in the seventies," Weingarten said. "Thirty years it took us to build back. Overcrowding. The devastation of programs. Buildings were frayed. ...We know what will happen if we don't try to stabilize our schools."

The most notable thing about this education spending is that the majority of the money will be sent directly to local school districts, colleges, and universities, cutting out state government middlemen. That should clamp down on waste and ensure that the dollars are at work on the ground within 60 days. It is the same logic mass transit advocates use to argue for direct federal funding of urban transportation departments.

--Dana Goldstein

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