November 5th, 2009

A Stimulus Update

obama-signs-stimulus-bill-300x291This week on the NewsHour, we reported on the effects of stimulus dollars in school districts in Rochester, New York. The program is part of our ongoing effort to track federal money as it floods–or trickles, as the case may be–into school districts across the country.

In Rochester, where schools received $30 Million from the federal government, the money helped to save three innovative programs and many educators’ jobs. According to President Obama and his education staff, this kind of change has been and will continue to be fostered by stimulus dollars. In a speech yesterday in Madison, Wisconsin, the President laid out the tenets of his Race to the Top program, in which states are eligible to win stimulus grants if they “develop a strong plan to improve the quality of education”in their states. He described what states need to do to qualify and how applications will be evaluated. Meanwhile, the Department of Education has released a report detailing the effects of stimulus money in the education sector, which states that 325,000 jobs have been saved since the money went out.

Pieces in both the New York Times and EdWeek say that the report’s data is somewhat suspect, however, and “only as good as the recipients that have reported it.” In many cases, it remains unclear what kinds of jobs were created and whether “saved” jobs were ever really in danger–for example, many Head Start programs seem to have given raises to employees whose jobs were reported as saved. The Obama administration has prioritized transparency by making these numbers public so quickly, but the report itself sheds only a hazy light on the stimulus and its usefulness.

Stay tuned for continuing coverage from us on both the stimulus and, more narrowly, the Race to the Top.

“Holding the Line” [LMtv & The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, 10/3/09]

Watch Obama’s Speech in Madison

Reports Show Conflicting Number of Jobs Attributed to Stimulus Money
[NY Times, 11/4/09]
Transparency Watch: Evaluating Stimulus Reporting [Education Week, 11/2/09]
ED Recovery Act Report: Summary of Programs and State-by-State Data
[, 11/2/09]

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