Education spending: Today feds show us the money

Hey, policy wonks and taxpayers all: Today’s the day to Track the Money. A true reality show this.

The feds are saying they’ll make public this afternoon the first quarterly reports on how states and school districts across the nation are using their $100 billion education slice of the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act pie. All will be revealed at this website.

The Minnesota serving is notable. The feds have awarded $643 million to the state Department of Ed so far to filter down to K-12 school districts and charter schools, including money for Title I and Special Education programs. Further, for higher education funding, that’s $53 million to Minnesota State Colleges and Universities and $60 million to the University of Minnesota.

Expect to see reports, also, about dollar awards that went to other local entities, including cities, counties and even non-profit organizations, according to Michelle Weber, statewide stimulus coordinator with the state’s Minnesota Management & Budget.

Don’t know how reader-friendly the reporting format will be, though accountability and transparency are the Obama administration’s mantra. But it may not be easy. A front page story in the current Education Week, which touts itself as “American Education’s Newspaper of Record,” points out the pitfalls. Michael Griffith, a school finance expert quoted in the story had this to say: “They’re trying to do this delicate balance: Are they getting enough information so the public can know exactly where the money is going, and are they doing it in such a way that it is not overburdening?”

Bean counters near blackboards and whiteboards all over the country need to report in detail: type and amount of a grant or contract, status of those projects, number of jobs saved and created. Plus, they have to reveal the congressional district of recipients and — oddly — location of headquarters for vendors used.

Set those cell phone and computer alerts for this afternoon.

And this surprises them?
It’s not that female engineering students don’t finish their undergraduate course of college study, it’s that women don’t seem to be attracted to engineering at all, according to a study reported in the October issue of Prism, the turn-to publication for American Society for Engineering Education.

That doesn’t surprise me, being a word rather than numbers person, but it’s apparently a gasp of relief for guy and gal engineers. (Surely they didn’t think we women couldn’t hack it?)

Turns out, the “under-representation of women in engineering continues to be a cause of grave concern, particularly as international competitiveness and homeland security focus attention on the need to increase native participation in the U.S. science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce,” according to the report.

The full study, appearing in the Journal of Engineering Education, reveals that while women tally 56 percent of undergrads and 58 percent of grad students earning degrees annually, only about 20 percent go for an engineering degree. Clearly, women are severely underrepresented.

So, what’s the plan?

Starting younger may help.

And for that, North Star state educators deserve a pat on the back. Recently 8,000 girls and their parents attended Girls and Science Day at the Science Museum of Minnesota, where they enthusiastically designed and tested straw rockets. Support, in part, came from the state Department of Education.

And let’s not forget Minnesota fourth-graders’ recent super impressive showing in the TIMSS — (Trends in International Math and Science Study). Our kids made remarkable gains in math achievement between 1995 and 2007. Presumably that includes girls.

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Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 10/30/2009 - 10:41 am.

    “And let’s not forget Minnesota fourth-graders’ recent super impressive showing in the TIMSS — (Trends in International Math and Science Study). Our kids made remarkable gains in math achievement between 1995 and 2007.”

    I haven’t seen the Minnesota results separately, but can you explain the apparent conflict between your assessment and this summary, Cynthia?

    “There was no measurable change in the percentage of either U.S. fourth- or eighth-graders performing at or above the advanced international benchmark in mathematics between 1995 and 2007.”

    Are you simply measuring from a lower benchmark?

  2. Submitted by Mark Radosevich on 10/30/2009 - 11:24 am.

    Dear Mr. Swift,

    The “apparent conflict” can be resolved by looking at the state results that she was referring to (available by a quick web search: try “Minnesota” and “TIMSS”).

    If you’ll allow me to do the search for you, here is a link to a PDF analyzing Minnesota students’ scores:

    Note that while the math scores for Minnesota students were roughly equal to the US average in 1995, they were substantially above the US average in 2007. Minnesota’s eighth graders maintained the lead they already had over the US.

  3. Submitted by Cynthia Boyd on 10/30/2009 - 04:08 pm.

    Thank you, Mr. Radosevich.

  4. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 10/30/2009 - 05:55 pm.

    Thank you, Mark. That is exactly what I was looking for.

  5. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 11/02/2009 - 10:41 am.

    One of the largest special interests group of the Dems is big education. It seems they are getting the “pay-off.”

    I wish we could invest in kids instead of this trickle down education system. Maybe our kids could get the same kind of education Mr. Obama recieved and his children currently recieve.

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