The $780 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (H.R.1), passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama last month, includes more than $25 billion in direct education funding.
The bill contains a mix of tax breaks and spending measures intended to preserve jobs, create new jobs, and stimulate economic activity.
Of particular interest to ASHA members is funding for Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act/No Child Left Behind (ESEA/NCLB) and Parts B and C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). More specifically, H.R.1 provides:
- $13 billion for ESEA/NCLB, including $10 billion for Title I formula grants and $3 billion for school improvements grants
- $12.2 billion for IDEA, including $11.3 billion for Part B Grants to States, $400 million for Section 619 programs for 3- to 5-year-olds, and $500 million for Part C Infants and Toddlers programs
According to the conference report that accompanied H.R.1, "The conferees intend that these funds shall be provided to school districts over the period of two fiscal years to help mitigate the reduction in local revenues and state support to school districts. The [U.S.] Department of Education shall provide half of these funds on July 1, 2010." The first half of the funding will be made available after enactment and as soon as the U.S. Department of Education can process the funds.
Throughout the three-week deliberations on the bill, none of the 535 members of the House and Senate—and none of the more than 234 amendments to H.R. 1—specifically suggested removing or reducing IDEA funds. Sens. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) modified their amendment to exclude IDEA funding reductions.
In addition, the final bill includes a $53.6 billion State Fiscal Stabilization Fund that requires governors to use at least 83% ($40 billion) of their state allocations to support elementary, secondary, and higher education. According to the conference report, "Funding received must first be used to restore state aid to school districts." The remaining 17% ($8.2 billion) of the allocation may be used on "public safety and other government services, which may include education services and higher education modernization, renovation, and repair activities." Local school districts that receive funds from their state's Fiscal Stabilization Fund may use the funds only for ESEA, IDEA, career and technical education, and for school modernization, renovation, and repair that is "consistent with recognized green-building rating systems."
H.R.1 attempts to preserve current funding levels for IDEA and ESEA/NCLB Title I over the next two years. State and local budget cuts have already begun and are likely to continue as state legislatures and local jurisdictions adjust to the economic recession. ASHA members who have experienced layoffs, service cutbacks, or increased workloads should work with their local district to identify high-priority areas for H.R.1 funds.