OWL Blog

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

by: Greg Russak, OWL Testing Software

We all know and are feeling the pain from this economic slowdown. The causes for the downturn and the myriad ideas and plans being considered for addressing the problems are far too broad and complex to be pondered here. Instead, we at OWL Testing Software thought that it would be interesting and, we hope, informative to offer a cursory level examination of The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 relative to education technology. This article doesn't constitute legal advice and is intended solely for general information purposes.

In trying to find ways to stimulate our economy back to health, lots of attention is being given to so-called "shovel ready" projects. These are projects designed and expected to boost our economy by quickly creating work for companies and their employees. There's also, in this writer's opinion, a great deal of forward-thinking vision as to the long-term benefits of such projects, and that includes education.

So what's in the bill for educators, students, and their families? How might it impact language education in particular?

First, let's just quickly examine some of the basics and latest news—at least as of right now—about the Act to help frame the information.

The bill was passed by the House of Representatives as H.R. 1 on January 28th by a vote of 244 to 188. It received broad Democratic support and did not receive a single Republican vote. 11 Democrats joined 177 Republican representatives in voting against it, and there was a single Republican who abstained from the voting.

The Senate began debate on Monday, February 2nd and, as of the date of this article, had not yet voted on it. If you’re interested in seeing the entire text of the bill or how your Representative voted, here are a few Web sites that you may find useful:

http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c111:H.R.1:,
www.opencongress.org/roll_call/show/5176, and
http://clerk.house.gov/legislative/legvotes.html.

So what’s in the $825 billion package for education? According to a January 28th release found at http://appropriations.house.gov/pdf/PressSummary01-28-09.pdf from the office of Dave Obey (D-Wis.), Chairman of the Committee on Appropriations and House sponsor, the $141.6 billion allocated for education breaks down as follows:

$41 billion for local school districts further broken down to:
- Title I, $13 billion,
- IDEA, $13 billion,
- new School Modernization and Repair Program, $14 billion, and
- Education Technology programs, $1 billion.
$79 billion in state fiscal relief funding intended to prevent cutbacks to key services, including:
- $29 billion through existing state and federal formulas to local school districts and public colleges and universities,
- $15 billion as bonus grants to states for meeting key performance measures,
- $25 billion for "other high priority needs such as public safety and other critical services, which may include education."
$15.6 billion to bump up Pell Grants by $500
$6 billion "for higher education modernization
The House Education and Labor Committee Web site has estimated how the $41 billion allocated to local school districts will be distributed down to the district level. The entire document is available for download as a PDF from http://edlabor.house.gov/blog/2009/01/school-districts-will-benefit.shtml. There, you can also use the links for each state to get a subset PDF just for the desired state.

Something to keep in mind about the Act is that the real purpose is to stimulate the economy very quickly. It looks to this writer that, when it comes to education, much of the funding indeed is meant to improve education and quickly create jobs. There seems lots of support for those "shovel ready" projects like repairing and replacing roofs, HVAC, lighting systems, security, ADA compliance, asbestos abatements, as well as green projects will be eligible in the House version of the bill. These are projects that will put people to work quickly, and there are "use-it-or-lose" provisions in the bill to make sure that any funds get spent relatively quickly. You can view the bill in its entirety at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c111:H.R.1:.

When it comes to technology for LEAs, Title IX, Subtitle C – Education, Section 9301 (e) Allowable Use of Funds has some fairly broad language for technology funding including:

(8) "upgrading or installing educational technology infrastructure to ensure that students have access to up-to-date educational technology"
(9)(B) "technology activities that are carried out in connection with school repair and renovation, including—acquiring hardware and software"
(12)(A) "other modernization, renovation, or repair of public school facilities to... improve teachers' ability to teach and students' ability to learn"
The provisions governing use of funds under this legislation for higher education are found under Section 9302. There are similarities with Section 9301. Paragraph (d) lists the allowable use of funds, including (1)(H) "Upgrading or installation of educational technology infrastructure."

Again, this article isn't meant to offer any legal advice of any kind. Its stated purpose was to provide a cursory examination of the Act relative to education for general information purposes. A lot can and probably will change between the time this was written, you have read it, and Congress and the President have acted.Our only hope at OWL Testing Software in offering this article is two-fold: that you found it and its references useful in understanding how the legislation under consideration could affect education, and that whatever our elected leaders agree to do to stimulate our economy it achieves that objective quickly and with long-term benefits for us all.


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