A new CNN poll shows that three-quarters of the public believes that at least half of the stimulus’s funding was wasted.
It’s not clear what the public is basing this assessment on; perhaps it’s a sign of the growing cynicism about the administration’s ability to improve the economy. But, at least in the world of education, there’s some support for this view.
As these reports and this article recount, $75 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) education funding that was meant to support school reform and economic recovery only went to protect jobs and programs. For those of us concerned primarily about K–12’s contributions to student learning (not its contributions to job numbers), this money, if not “wasted,” was certainly applied suboptimally. For those, however, who want the stimulus to keep people working, this money will seem to have been put to good use (in fact, don’t be surprised if a White House press release responding to this poll touts the jobs saved or created in education).
For those in the first camp, the Race to the Top comes quickly to mind. Well over a billion dollars will likely be distributed to states in April. These funds are supposed to be absolutely, positively about reform, not jobs. If previous patterns continue, and they are instead used to prop up the status quo, the public’s cynicism about the ARRA will be justified.