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So-so On Education In The Stimulus

The numbers are out on the conference stimulus bill, and education reform measures had some gains and losses. TPM has posted an analysis of relative funding in the House, Senate, and conference versions here (see pages four and five).

Reformers were disheartened last week when the Senate bill proved less bold than the House version, especially since they felt that the House document, even with its provisions related to merit pay, charter schools, and other reform ideas, prioritized existing, not always successful programs over more innovative measures. "The amounts for each of these [reform] functions are relatively (and in some cases, ridiculously) small," the group Democrats for Education Reform said in a statement. "They approach rounding error in the context of the $145 billion education package."

That being said, the final bill wasn't a total loss. It looks like a $200-million sum for teacher incentive funds, a measure that the House had sponsored but the Senate had nixed, made it into the conference version--as did $250 million for statewide data systems, which could help track student and overall school achievement, and thus accountability, more accurately and efficiently. Reformers had called for both measures to be restored.

On the negative side, all $25 million in funding for charter school improvements was cut, making Obama's visit to a charter last week a bit of a symbolic let-down. Also slashed was all $14 billion for K-12 school construction.

So, the bill looks like a mixed bag overall: not exactly what reformers wanted on several counts, but better than nothing as an out-of-the-gate move on education policy in the Obama era. Here's hoping that it's a (small) step in the right direction.

--Seyward Darby