In the recently-passed stimulus package, nearly $5 billion in discretionary funds was allocated toward education, helping Obama fulfill campaign promises to improve public schools and maybe even fulfill promises made by Bush’s No Child Left Behind initiative, now seven years old. However, in the current economic crisis, Arne Duncan, Obama’s Education Secretary who will oversee how the money is spent, has admitted that some of the money will be used to prevent teacher layoffs rather than improving the education system. Much of the money could be used to cover operational expenses like payroll if the stimulus package does not improve the nation’s overall economic condition, which could dampen the potential benefits of receiving such a windfall. Still, Duncan told reporters that he sees this as “an absolute historic opportunity.” The intention is to use the money for “rewarding innovation,” as Obama puts it. Schools and universities who feel that they have an idea for an innovative way to improve education can apply for part of the federal funding in order to put their idea into practice.
These discretionary funds are part of a larger $100 billion allowance intended for education in the stimulus package. The other funds are to be used for updating aging schools, keeping class sizes to a reasonable number, funding early education programs and the like.