Answering Your Frequently Asked Questions

One of the things I plan to do on this site is to regularly answer some of the most frequently asked questions that come through to our office, either by mail or email. There’s so much information out there, and I think it’s helpful for OESE to be able to provide some answers to questions that still may not be so clear.

So, here’s the first question I’m going to tackle. We’ve heard recently from a lot of folks who are wondering about the state of funding for education in the U.S. They have asked us specifically, “What is the Department doing to fund schools across the country?”

We at the Department understand the strain the current economic situation has placed on state and local education budgets and the need for additional funding to support important reforms. Although education is primarily a State and local responsibility in the United States, and the Federal contribution to elementary and secondary education is a little under 9 percent, the Department is working hard to help states fund education.

You’ve all heard about the stimulus package signed into law last year by President Barack Obama, theAmerican Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which included approximately $100 billion to support education. Under ARRA, we had the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (SFSF) program, a new one-time appropriation of $53.6 billion. Of the amount appropriated, the U. S. Department of Education awarded governors approximately $48.6 billion by formula under the SFSF program in exchange for a commitment to advance essential education reforms to benefit students from early learning through post-secondary education. ARRA also made available IDEA and Title 1 funds. As a superintendent in Pomona before coming to DC, I know that ARRA funds last year helped our district tremendously, saving a number of education jobs.

More recently, in August 2010, Congress passed and the President signed legislation providing essential resources to assist local school districts in saving or creating education jobs during the 2010-2011 school year. This new Education Jobs Fund program will go a long way in protecting these jobs and ensuring that America’s students are prepared to succeed in college and careers. This $10 billion program will enable schools to keep an estimated 160,000 or more education jobs. The Education Jobs Fund requires that school districts use the funds to pay the salaries and benefits of teachers, school administrators, and other essential staff. You can find out projected allocations to states at http://www.ed.gov/sites/default/files/edjobsfund-allocations.pdf.

I hope this provides some clarity on what the Department is doing to support states and districts during these difficult economic times.

Dr. Meléndez