Where is stimulus money for education going, and how much has been spent? Here's a new website that provides tracking for these significant, multi-billion dollar questions.
Kudos to the Education Writers Association for taking on this huge data gathering project, and to Bill and Melinda Gates who are funding it for the next two years.
When it comes to following the money, the flow of dollars is impressive: For example, Milwaukee has been allocated $202.6 million so far in stimulus money for its approximately 90,000 public school children; 58 percent, or $117.7 million, has been spent. Meanwhile, Madison has gotten $21.8 million in stimulus funds, and has spent around $12 million, or 55 percent for almost 25,000 students. I was also curious about smaller Dane County districts and their information is available too from Edmoney.org. For example: Sun Prairie, celebrating the grand public opening of its gorgeous new high school August 28 (go here for information about the festivities and school tours), has been awarded $6.6 million in stimulus funds and has spent $5.6 million of that. Middleton? $3.5 million awarded; $2.8 million spent. Verona? $4.9 million awarded; $4.3 spent.
And how about some other Wisconsin urban districts? Green Bay, Kenosha and Racine, with student populations that range from 22,000 to about 22,500, each have been awarded more than $30 million in federal stimulus money. You could ask why those communities got approximately one third more than Madison received but that's another question for another time.
With billions flowing into the states to upgrade American education, especially in places where both students and schools have struggled for years, it's useful to see exactly where the funding is going. But there's more to it than that. With lots of talk these days about teacher accountability (Cap Times story from earlier this month here), let's also hear from administrators and board members about how this money aimed at making things better is actually being spent.
How about generating some local reports for school board members and the public on the way the stimulus money is being used? Is anyone else curious about how those multi millions aimed at shoring up Milwaukee's floundering schools are actually being applied? If kids -- rural and urban, white, black and brown, rich and poor -- start coming out of Wisconsin schools with the skills they need to lead successful lives, it will have been a great investment for us all. But we need the data, not just the dollars. This information is a good place to start.