Educational Innovation and Economic Stimulus

The U.S. Department of Education’s 2010 fiscal year budget of $47.6 billion includes an allocation of $517 million dedicated to the Teacher Incentive Fund which rewards principals, teachers, and other school personnel who raise student achievement, close achievement gaps and work hard to staff schools.

School districts across the country will be competing for the billions of dollars on the line. They will showcase their great schools, exemplary teachers and innovative ideas. There’s no doubt that the stimulus money will be a boon for school reform. For years, school districts have shown that they have innovative ideas, but without proper funding those ideas never come to fruition.

Innovation and change should be energized with both an incentive and reward to replenish resources of ingenuity, commitment, and creativity. Only in public education is going the extra mile a donation expected of the dedicated few.

It is empowering to be recognized for turning gang infested schools from the strong hold of the socially impaired to havens where students can remediate themselves to academic achievement. Yes, placards and pats on the back feel good; but, they don’t buy anything. Why are educators the only missionaries who trek the roadways of the under-achievers –prodding them to the higher places with maybe a brief notation in the annual assessment of their deeds and misdeeds in the educational workplace?

When an inspired teacher or administrator makes the difference in average yearly attainment a reward is more than appropriate. It is fully earned for having the tools to enable the struggling student to complete a toolkit that is in ill repair.

Based on the state funding tables issued by the U.S. Department of Education, Colorado is expected to receive $33,845,209 in Recovery Act funding for schools identified for improvement, corrective action and restructuring under Title I. This money is expected to come into play this fall.

If past history is any indicator the incentive program will be a success. Programs such as the Absence Addiction Approach recognized by the National Interagency Drug Institute and the U.S. Department of Education helped an academically impaired high school move from low attendance and floundering graduation rates to turn around status celebrated by its principal winning recognition as Outstanding Individual In School and feted by the state’s governor. This turn around scenario was incentivized by outside funding. This shows what dynamic effects special funding can have.

The rewards reaped from the Teacher Incentive Fund will provide a tremendous opportunity for improving schools with hard work and innovation. The real winners though, will be the children.