The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act contained more than $100 billion for education, including $40 billion to stabilize state education budgets and $5 billion in discretionary money for incentive grants. The law calls for states to pursue reforms in four areas (raising academic standards, rewarding effective teachers, improving struggling schools, and collecting data on student and teacher performance), and Education Secretary Arne Duncan has warned that he will withhold stimulus dollars from states that don't follow through.
But since the ARRA was enacted in February, many states' budget woes have gotten worse, and states such as California, Texas and Ohio are contemplating deep cuts in education programs and widespread teacher layoffs to balance their ailing budgets. Last week, House Appropriations Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., cautioned that it may be unrealistic to expect cash-strapped states to pursue "dramatic new reforms" and called on Duncan to "take that to heart in the way that you administer the funds under your control."
Given the bleak budgetary outlook for many states, should stimulus funds be primarily devoted to staving off education cuts, or should the administration focus on leveraging the money to drive its reform agenda?