What the Recovery Act will achieve for education

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) was signed into law by President Barack Obama on Feb. 17 -- providing unprecedented federal education aid to the states. Governor Deval Patrick worked with other governors, the president and congressional leadership to ensure that there would be targeted investments for public education at all levels, from pre-kindergarten through higher education.

Many MTA members weighed in with the president and the Massachusetts congressional delegation to support their efforts, as did members of NEA affiliates across the country. As a result, in the next two years, over $100 billion will go to education to preserve the progress we have made and to help students succeed.

General Education Provisions

The Commonwealth will receive more than $1.7 billion for public schools and public higher education over two years. The funds are targeted for different programs and will be available on different timelines. The areas that will see an infusion of funds include:

  • Early Childhood.
  • IDEA (special education).
  • Title I (federal funds targeted for low-income students).
  • Education Technology.
  • Pell Grants (for higher education tuition).
  • Work Study.

These funds will be distributed through established federal funding formulas. There are also tax credits for school and college construction and for college tuition. The largest amount of money, however, will come through the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund.

State Fiscal Stabilization Fund

From this $59 billion fund, Massachusetts will receive approximately $994 million over two years. Roughly 82 percent of this money -- $813 million -- must go to public education. It can be used for Chapter 70 funding -- state aid to school districts based on a formula that depends on student enrollment and the wealth of the district – and for public higher education operating budgets.

The other 18 percent -- $181 million -- is designated for "public safety and other services," which may include education.
How Can These Funds Be Used?

  • President Obama, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Governor Patrick have all made it clear that these funds can be used to save educators' jobs. Creating and saving jobs is a major priority of the ARRA. It is clear that the money can -- and should -- be used to pay the salaries of educators. If your school district says that none of these funds can be used to prevent layoffs, this is not true.
  • The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) is urging that some money from this fund and other ARRA monies be used for "strategic investments" such as professional development, dropout prevention, materials, career development and regional capacity building. The DESE believes these types of programs are short-term investments and that they will not create long-term continuing costs.
  • Money can be used for modernization, renovation and repair.
  • In higher education, the funds can be used for general expenditures and to mitigate the need to raise tuition and fees for students. This brings higher education funding up to the 2009 budget level.
  • Significant preK-12 funds flow through Chapter 70 and can be used for activities that are permitted under federal laws, including the No Child Left Behind Act.

Who Decides How the Money Is Distributed?

  • The governor has control over how this money is distributed, subject to certain rules laid out in the ARRA.
  • To date, the governor has decided that $162 million will go to public higher education to prevent layoffs and large fee hikes.
  • The governor has added $168 million to his Chapter 70 proposal for the fiscal year that begins July 1. This money will make sure that all districts have the required amount of funds that they must spend on education in FY10.

Further explanation on distribution of these funds is available on the Web site of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center .

Please Note: The distribution of this money may change as the Legislature considers its version of the FY10 budget in the next two months.

What Will Happen to the Rest of the Money?

  • It is likely that most of the rest of the money will be held until the next fiscal year – which begins in July of 2010 – to again shore up Chapter 70 and higher education operating funds.

Funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

On March 20, Governor Patrick announced the distribution of $281 million of IDEA funds to Massachusetts school districts. These figures are set, and the money will be distributed over the next two years.

There is more flexibility in the use of these funds than in the use of other education funding. Fifty percent of the IDEA money must be used for special education programs. However, there are provisions in the ARRA that permit the other 50 percent to be used by school districts for other education activities. Every school district in the state will receive funds under IDEA.

Title I

The ARRA designates $10 billion to go to schools that have high concentrations of students who live in poverty. The state will receive $163 million in Title I funds over two years. These funds will be distributed based on eligibility criteria set by federal statute.

Many districts, but not all, will receive this money. Before long, the state is expected to explain how the funds will be distributed.

Have All Decisions Been Made?

No. The Federal Department of Education is still working on guidelines and applications that are required for some of the funds, so there are a lot of unanswered questions. The NEA is keeping the MTA and other state affiliates informed as information is received.

Where Can I Get More Details?

Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center brief titled The Governor's Distribution of ARRA Education Funding

MTA explanation of the plan to use $168 million from the stabilization fund for Chapter 70

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

Governor's Web site

U.S. Department of Education

National Education Association