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So where's our stimulus money now?



You've heard that the states including Florida have received billions in federal support for special education (IDEA) and low-income (Title I) programs. So why, some Gradebook readers have asked, have you not seen the dollars already put to work?

A couple of answers.

First, some of the money still isn't officially available. As this spreadsheet of Title I funding shows, the allocations are spread over two fiscal years, beginning with 2009-10. (A first round of IDEA funds was to be distributed in late April.) Districts are applying to get their share, and they have to demonstrate how they will be accountable for its use.

That leads to the second point -- the rules are constantly evolving, and many district leaders tell the Gradebook they don't want to commit the money until they fully understand how the feds expect it to be spent.

Information about the intent has been growing more clear from the Obama administration. Today, the USDOE put forth notice that it expects Title I money to support major education changes at schools that need change the most -- not just more of the same. Secretary Arne Duncan told the Brookings Institution:

"When a school is chronically under-performing despite additional supports and other strategies, you have to consider bolder action, whether it's changing the leadership, hiring a new staff or turning schools over to charter operators. We want to know which states have done this and if not, why not. Kids only have one chance for an education."

See also this Associated Press report. And for more details about Florida's education stimulus funds, by county, visit the FLDOE Web site on the recovery act. (The state has yet to learn officially whether it will get the waiver it needs to qualify for education stabilization funds, which can be put to general use. The Orlando Sentinel is reporting that a congressman says the request has been signed.)

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