Education Stimulus Watch: Special Report 1

That the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which was signed into law in February, will pump nearly $100 billion--an unprecedented sum of federal money--into K-12 education is not in doubt. Nor is the legislation's potential to play a uniquely influential role in the affairs of districts and schools. What is at issue is the substance of that role.

Since congressional deliberations began, much of the commentary about the ARRA has suggested that it will contribute mightily to the ongoing efforts to improve America's schools. The New York Times reported on Democratic congressional leaders' vigorous efforts to craft the law in a way that would ensure that the funding would be used for reform. Since its passage, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has said many times that ARRA education funds must drive improvement. Significant media and education industry attention has been paid to the law's "Race to the Top" and "What Works" funds, billions of dollars designed to launch new initiatives and scale up those already working.

For these reasons, the law's education components have been depicted as potentially among the most important engines for education reform in generations. This special report approaches these claims with a critical eye and ultimately concludes otherwise. Though some congressional leaders may have thought they were writing a blueprint for reform, what resulted was quite different. And while Secretary Duncan, to his credit, has spoken passionately and often about the need for improvement, the tools he was handed were cracked and dull.

In short, at this point the enthusiastic predictions about the ARRA's contributions to K-12 education reform should be approached with skepticism. The law's provisions and their interpretation by the Department of Education erect significant barriers to reform. Moreover, additional conditions on the ground make those obstacles even higher. At this early date, it appears that we must adjust our expectations about the ARRA's ability to generate the types of improvements our schools so urgently need.

Click here to view this report as an Adobe Acrobat PDF.

Andy Smarick ([email protected]) is an adjunct fellow at AEI and a distinguished visiting fellow at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Read his post on AEI's Enterprise Blog here.

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine

What's new on AEI

In year four of Dodd-Frank, over-regulation is getting old
image Halbig v. Burwell: A stunning rebuke of a lawless and reckless administration
image Beware all the retirement 'crisis' reports
image Cut people or change how they're paid
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 21
    MON
  • 22
    TUE
  • 23
    WED
  • 24
    THU
  • 25
    FRI
Monday, July 21, 2014 | 9:15 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Closing the gaps in health outcomes: Alternative paths forward

Please join us for a broader exploration of targeted interventions that provide real promise for reducing health disparities, limiting or delaying the onset of chronic health conditions, and improving the performance of the US health care system.

Monday, July 21, 2014 | 4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Comprehending comprehensive universities

Join us for a panel discussion that seeks to comprehend the comprehensives and to determine the role these schools play in the nation’s college completion agenda.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014 | 8:50 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Who governs the Internet? A conversation on securing the multistakeholder process

Please join AEI’s Center for Internet, Communications, and Technology Policy for a conference to address key steps we can take, as members of the global community, to maintain a free Internet.

Thursday, July 24, 2014 | 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
Expanding opportunity in America: A conversation with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan

Please join us as House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) unveils a new set of policy reforms aimed at reducing poverty and increasing upward mobility throughout America.

Event Registration is Closed
Thursday, July 24, 2014 | 6:00 p.m. – 7:15 p.m.
Is it time to end the Export-Import Bank?

We welcome you to join us at AEI as POLITICO’s Ben White moderates a lively debate between Tim Carney, one of the bank’s fiercest critics, and Tony Fratto, one of the agency’s staunchest defenders.

No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.