In April, the states and school districts began receiving the first installment of more than $48 billion in federal economic stimulus funds for education and child care appropriated under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA). This unprecedented federal investment in education–from early childhood through college–is a tremendous opportunity for state and local investments to improve our nation’s schools. The danger is that states and school districts may squander these funds on ill-conceived projects or use them simply to maintain the status quo. It is critical that the states and school districts make wise decisions about how to spend the stimulus funds, using them not only to maintain educational services and jobs during the current economic downturn but also to institute lasting reforms that will yield ongoing gains in student learning and help fuel America’s long-term economic growth.
Prior to the passage of the ARRA, states faced budgetary shortfalls that forced cuts to postsecondary budgets. Since the passage of ARRA, state agencies and postsecondary education staff are relieved that many postsecondary budget cuts can be restored. A new ECS StateNote states that caution should be used when spending State Fiscal Stabilization Funds on programs or positions that require recurring funds. If states are not careful and thoughtful about how stabilization money is spent, they will face similar financial issues in two years.
Current state budget shortfalls threaten states’ progress in improving access to high-quality early education programs. A new ECS Briefing Memo argues that the solution is to use American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds to creatively support quality early education programs.
From the summary:
To renew America’s status as the world’s leader in college attainment, the federal government needs to transform America’s community colleges and equip them for the 21st century. This long-overdue investment should establish national goals and a related performance measurement system; provide resources to drive college performance toward those goals; stimulate greater innovation in community college policies and practices to enhance the quality of subbaccalaureate education; and support data systems to track student and institutional progress and performance.
The establishment of a multi-tiered educational pathway for geriatric home caregivers would support efforts to meet the needs of an increasing number of community dwelling older adults who require assistance with activities of daily living, while generating a cadre of qualified employees for an expanding non-medical private home care market. An educational pathway for geriatric home caregivers would also standardize the training of home care assistants while providing these individuals access to routine, high quality continuing education opportunities and the potential for career advancement.
This ECS Alert provides examples of actions state policy leaders can take to assist schools and districts in preparing for and responding to an influenza pandemic.
In Canada the collaboration on early learning and child care policy between unions, advocacy groups, and professional organizations has been unique and has helped the issue of early learning and child care to remain vibrant in public policy debates despite the lack of action by most governments so far to develop a system.
This article is an examination of four key ways in which unions have and continue to contribute to building a quality early learning and child care system: advocacy, sector professionalism, negotiation of wages and working conditions, and organizing. It also outlines some of the key struggles in the movement for publicly-funded, universal child care.
From the press release:
Students in Milwaukee’s school voucher program are getting an equal or better education at half the cost of local public schools, according to a major report released today. The report also validated that the nation’s longest-running private school choice program improves public school performance and boosts achievement for participating students.
Conducted by researchers at the University of Arkansas as part of the independent School Choice Demonstration Project (SCDP), the report found that students in the program generally posted achievement gains that were somewhat higher than that of students in the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS). When compared to children in MPS, students enrolled in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program experienced statistically significant gains in 7th and 8th grade math.
At the same time, the report concluded that the MPCP continues to save Wisconsin taxpayers tens of millions of dollars a year. For FY 2009 alone, the state saved $37 million as a result of the voucher program. While the report is focused on state sources of funding, when federal sources of funding are included, it costs $13,468 to educate an MPS child, versus a maximum of $6,607 to educate an MPCP student.
Alliance for School Choice
With record numbers of parents in the workforce, helping parents with child care has become critical for long-term economic growth, strengthening families, and creating equality for women. As the child care and early education needs of families continue to increase dramatically, the cost or unavailability of high-quality child care and early education programs often place parents in an impossible position — they need to work but they also need to know that their kids are taken care of in order to work.
From the press release:
Schools across the nation are planning significant cuts in their 2009-10 school year budgets, in spite of some $100 billion in education funding included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, according to a new study from the American Association of School Administrators. The study, “Looking Back, Looking Forward: How the Economic Downturn Continues to Impact School Districts,” is based on a survey of school administrators conducted in February and March 2009.
According to the new study, the impact of the economic downturn on schools is widespread and has worsened over the past six months. Seventy-five percent of administrators who responded to the survey described their districts as “inadequately funded.” That percentage has increased eight points since October 2008, when 67 percent of administrators described their districts as “inadequately funded” in the “AASA Study of the Impact of the Economic Downturn.” In both studies, the downturn reached across districts, regardless of geographic area, district type (rural, suburban or urban) or district size.