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Recovery in Focus: Saving and Hiring 250,000 Teachers

The Domestic Policy Council releases a new report showing the massive impact of the Recovery Act on education, and how directly it affects our families.

The Recovery Act, which the President signed in February, is having positive impacts on almost every conceivable sector of our economy, both in the short term and in terms of creating a new foundation for the future.   But one of the areas that might be felt even more directly by families than most – again, in both the short and the long terms -- is in education.  A new report out today from the Domestic Policy Council documents just how broad the impact has been.

Read the Report: "Educational Impactof the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act" (pdf).

From the introduction:

Immediately after President Obama signed ARRA into law on February 17th, the Department acted swiftly to move the first phase of these funds to states in response to drastic budget shortfalls. Over $67 billion in formula grants have been disbursed as of September 30th. As part of the unprecedented transparency requirements of ARRA, the first quarterly public accounting of all expenditures to date will be posted by the Recovery, Accountability, and Transparency Board on October 30th. Initial reporting from states find that the October 30 release will show at least 250,000 education jobs created or saved across the nation that are supporting our students and fueling our economy.

The report meticulously looks at the impact the Recovery Act had on state budgets, which had legislators facing awful choices on how to close massive shortfalls. And as it goes on to explain, the benefits of the Recovery Act ended up going to virtually every student in the schools that were affected, since teacher layoffs effect virtually every student:

Saving and generating jobs for teachers has had clear effects in the classroom. As local school districts are faced with budget shortfalls in a slowing economy, the number of teachers employed may decline.

However, the need to educate students does not decrease. Fewer teacher jobs, without fewer students, may lead to larger and often unacceptable class sizes.

Faced with these circumstances, some school districts have chosen to use ARRA funds to avert such class size expansion. For example, reports indicate that Peoria, IL used ARRA funding to focus on increasing the number of teaching positions and reducing class sizes in kindergarten, and at the first- and second-grade levels. At the Rothschild Middle School in Columbus, GA, the principal was able use ARRA funds to hire more math teachers to deliver individualized attention to students through smaller classes.

ARRA has also provided significant funding for low-income students ($10 billion Title I ARRA appropriation) and for students with disabilities ($12.2 billion under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). These funds have all been disbursed by the Department and are currently supporting essential special education professionals and programs throughout the nation and bolstering schools in many of our poorest communities.

Along the lines of the aforementioned "new foundation," the Recovery Act funds have also helped our schools move towards the kind of reform that the President has spoken about, and which has been embraced across the political spectrum:

The overall goals for education in the ARRA are to stimulate the economy in the short term and to invest in education advancements to ensure the long-term economic health and success of our nation.

Currently ARRA is, in fact, providing urgent fiscal relief to states and restoring education budgets in school districts, while also advancing the Administration’s four reform priorities:

  • Rigorous college- and career-ready standards and high-quality assessments that are valid and reliable for all students;
  • Pre-K-to college and career data systems that track progress and foster continuous improvement;
  • Improvements in teacher effectiveness and in the equitable distribution of qualified teachers for all students; and
  • Intensive support and effective interventions for the lowest-performing schools.

Media and direct accounts from districts across the country provide examples of local initiatives that are focusing ARRA funds towards one or more of these reform priorities.

It's always hard to step back and gauge the entire impact of the Recovery Act, but this is one area where the benefits to the country and our children are beyond dispute.