Governor: $635M Recovery Act funds will help school budgets

Wednesday, May 20, 2009 at 9:39am
Staff Reports

Gov. Phil Bredesen said Wednesday that the U.S. Department of Education approved Tennessee’s application for the first $635 million available to the state through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) State Fiscal Stabilization Fund program.

That number represents 67 percent of the total stabilization funding available to Tennessee under this Recovery Act program, he said. Tennessee will be eligible to apply for the remaining $313 million this fall.

“These one-time funds provided under the Recovery Act will help Tennessee tremendously in a time of very difficult and challenging budgets,” said Bredesen. “In addition to protecting teacher jobs and the additional support these funds will provide to both K-12 and higher education over the next two years, the education reform assurances required by the program are aligned perfectly with the goals we have already established in Tennessee for dramatic educational improvement.”

The stabilization funds are allocated through the proposed FY 2009-2010 budget, subject to approval by the Tennessee General Assembly.

Tennessee is already a leader in advancing four essential education reforms to which states are required to commit to receive the stabilization funds. The reform measures are designed to benefit students from early learning through post-secondary education.

The first reform calls for college- and career- ready standards and high-quality, valid and reliable assessments for all students. Tennessee is part of the American Diploma Project, a national movement to set high expectations for all students. In 2008, Tennessee was recognized by the nonprofit, bipartisan organization for its success in raising academic standards to improve economic competitiveness, aligning education standards with real-world demands to increase student success.

The second reform calls for the development and use of a pre-K through post-secondary and career longitudinal data system, while the third area of reform focuses on increasing teacher effectiveness and ensuring an equitable distribution of qualified teachers.

“Teachers are the core of the school system, the school, and the classroom,” said Bredesen. “If a child is in front of an excellent teacher, and more importantly, a series of excellent teachers, he will make progress and perform well. Refocusing on the individual teacher and making a commitment to getting the best possible people to teach in each and every classroom is essential.”

A final reform calls for states to place intense support efforts around schools most in need of academic intervention. When schools are struggling or not meeting standards, Tennessee is aggressive about stepping in to provide assistance with early intervention efforts like the state’s Exemplary Educators Program that places veteran educators in at-risk, High Priority schools to serve as mentors to principals and teachers.

Last year alone, almost 50 percent of schools on Tennessee’s High Priority list, schools that missed federal benchmarks for more than one consecutive year, improved student performance.

The State Fiscal Stabilization Fund program is a one-time appropriation of $53.6 billion under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. To learn more about the Recovery Act, click here.