Obama calls for more school stimulus

Last night, in his speech before Congress, the President called for another round of stimulus spending, including $25 billion for school modernization and $35 billion for what the Administration calls "teacher rehiring," i.e., calling teachers back from layoffs pending for budget reasons. I'm skeptical that this will actually wind up helping schools much, however.

On the teacher front, we know from the Center on Education Policy's recent survey and other data that school districts mostly used their EduJobs money to protect fringe benefits and administrative staff while laying off teachers in the arts and other non-core subjects. [Update: CEP disputes my interpretation of the survey: see the comments below.] There is no reason to expect anything but business as usual from another round of subsidies. When the new money goes away, districts will still not have adjusted to the new normal, to their students' detriment. More subsidies just protect the status quo at great expense to taxpayers.

Funds for school modernization are nice as far as that goes. The emphasis on rural schools means the dollars are more likely to go to a high-need area. But having a nice building is not likely to jump start any child's education, and project labor requirements in many locales may blunt the job creation impact of the program as well. I'd rate this warm and fuzzy but ultimately marginal as an education policy, and questionable as a job creation band-aid.

? Chris Tessone

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