One year ago, we faced an education catastrophe. State and local budgets were in such bad shape that one estimate predicted that 600,000 education jobs were at risk. Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, we made a huge commitment to avoid massive layoffs. So far, the Department of Education has awarded almost $70 billion in ARRA’s education money. That’s enough to fund 300,000 education jobs across the country and drive reform.
On the one-year anniversary of the Recovery Act, I visited Riverside Elementary School in Alexandria, Va. Through their creative planning, the school’s teachers and principal have used $300,000 in ARRA funds to save jobs and advance reform. They extended the school day one day each week so they could continue a literacy program that otherwise would have been cancelled. They also expanded parent workshops, which the school’s teachers and principal say have been crucial to providing families with the tools and information they need to help their children learn. .
During my visit, Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Jack Dale told me that he viewed the Recovery Act as in investment in education. “Too often, we base [economic] decisions on tax rates rather than quality of life,” he said. “We must make our decisions on quality of life … and nothing relates to that more than education.”
I couldn’t agree more. I know that many teachers and principals across the country are using ARRA money to save jobs and promote reform – just as Riverside is.