Our school district is expected to receive approximately $1.2 million over two years under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. Most of the funding will be provided as part of the IDEA (Individuals With Disabilities Act) funds. Given the difficult economic conditions it is tempting to envision the funds being used for general budgetary purposes – to offset planned cuts. However, the U.S. Department of Education, has proclaimed, “ARRA funds should be used to improve student achievement and help close the achievement gap.” Included, as an example of such an effort, is “making progress toward rigorous college- and career-ready standards and high-quality assessments that are valid and reliable for all students, including English language learners and students with disabilities.”
Importantly, the funds are additional monies, not intended to supplant current funding from local or state sources, unless and to the extent a partial waiver is obtained. The funds are short term in nature – temporary additional funding to be used within 2-3 years. According to the U.S. Department of Education, school districts are encouraged to use the ARRA funds so as to:
1. Maximize short-term investments with lasting results for
* teacher, school, and district capacity for improvement and
2. Integrate coherent improvement strategies that are aligned with the core reform goals.
With respect to uses of the funds envisioned under the IDEA in particular, districts are advised to consider a range of potential uses for lasting benefit, such as:
* Providing intensive district-wide professional development for special education and regular education teachers that focuses on scaling-up, through replication, proven and innovative evidence-based school-wide strategies in reading, math, writing and science, and positive behavioral supports to improve outcomes for students with disabilities, and
* Developing or expanding the capacity to collect and use data to improve teaching and learning.
Because the money will no longer be provided after a couple of years, districts are cautioned by the U.S. Department of Education not to use the funds to create programs or make commitments that cannot be sustained once the funding is removed. Once implemented, we should be able to monitor how the funding is being used, since to support the most effective uses of ARRA funds and accurately track results, recipients must publicly report on how funds are used. We can all learn more about the funding and “how it is supposed to work” online. (See: ARRA Factsheet) and IDEA Guidance.)
As a former member of the Mamaroneck Board of Education, as the current vice president of law & policy of the Mamaroneck SEPTA and, perhaps most importantly, as a parent of two elementary school children in the Mamaroneck School District, I am optimistic about what can be accomplished with the stimulus funds and eagerly look forward to learning more about the district’s plans to use the funds.
Our district has a real opportunity to enhance further the educational experiences and achievement of many students.