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teacher with students

This summer, the U.S. Department of Education has teamed up with the Department of Health and Human Services to invest in early childhood learning. Under the DOE's signature competitive grant program, Race to the Top, states can earn money to create robust, coordinated programs to close the school readiness gap and, in turn, reduce crime and strengthen the national economy. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius announced the $500 million grant on May 25 and accepted public feedback on its criteria through July 11.

Draconian cuts have become the order of business for many school districts since the economic recession hit in 2008. But for the coming school year, "draconian" has taken on an even harsher meaning, as states from California and Texas to Illinois and New York wrestle with deficits in the tens of billions of dollars and make multi-billion-dollar reductions in funding for education.

School finance reform has become a key component for transforming public schools in the United States. Over the last decade, a growing number of districts have turned to an approach known by different names— student-based budgeting, weighted student funding and fair student funding, among others—in which budgets are allocated to schools in dollars, based on the needs of students within a school, rather than in staff positions.

In Oshkosh, Wis., second and third graders build houses out of milk crates, the teacher simulates a flood, and they talk about how home insurance works. In Chicago, high-school social studies classes take field trips to places like the Chicago Board of Trade and the Federal Reserve, to learn about markets and banking.


A new report released in May finds that although a majority of K12 educators believe that financial literacy is an important content area that should be taught in schools, only a small minority feel qualified to teach it or have ever taught the topic in class.

With budgets cut to the bone, music education programs in many districts have been trimmed and even eliminated. Student interest in them, however, has never been higher. A new study released by the National String Project Consortium (NSPC) indicates that, just prior to the economic meltdown, the number of students playing string instruments had increased from 18 percent in 1997 to 29 percent in 2009. While the study confirms promising news for interest in music education, it also predicts a national shortage of string teachers for 2010 through 2013—a loss of 1,000 teachers each year.

It has been another tough spring for school districts across the nation. The economic crisis of the past two years is hitting school systems hard as districts plan for the 2010-2011 school year. State support to schools continues to decline, and the "soft landing" afforded by federal stimulus monies is a thing of the past. School districts must cut costs but find their options constrained by restrictive labor agreements in addition to the collective bargaining process itself. If ever there was a time for a new approach to bargaining, it is now.

Status of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) Funding as of March 31, 2010

Source: U.S. Department of Education

For those districts seeking to construct, renovate, rehabilitate or acquire land, the National Education Technology Funding Corporation, or "Eddie Tech," has made an innovative program to simplify the process of accessing low-cost financing. Eddie Tech's School Investment Pooled-Securities (SIPS) Program is bringing together tax-credit Qualified School Construction Bonds (QSCBs) and creating larger and more marketable collections that are more desirable for investors.