The details are starting to emerge from the stimulus bill (which the House has already approved, so you'd hope the details would be out). And here's one eye-popping number: Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will have a $650 million kitty he can use to fund "innovative" states, school districts, or non-profits.

Now, we're starting to get used to some really big numbers these days (an $800 billion stimulus plan; a $2.5 trillion bank bailout; etc.). But let me put that in context. Before now, the most discretionary money enjoyed by a Secretary of Education in recent history (back in 2003) was about $30 million dollars. That came through the Fund for the Improvement of Education; half was allocated by Congress for "teacher quality initiatives" and the other half was completely open-ended.

So $650 million vs. $30 million. Do the math and you'll see that this is twenty times more discretionary??money than any education secretary has had before. Wowzers!

Have a great weekend; we'll give the final stimulus package the Reform-o-Meter treatment early next week.

I dallied yesterday in announcing the BIG NEWS: Gadfly is (and has been for almost 24 hours) out. (I hope I have not caused you undue pain and suffering in my tardiness.) In the top spot, find??Mike and Checker's advice for Arne. Want to know how to avoid accusations of cronyism? How to answer the haggling questions of state education officials wondering what's up? Look no further! Next, take a gander at the continued disturbing trend of educational elitism. No, not the Ivy League, but schools shutting out students that happen to live outside district boundaries (and charging their parents as felons, no less).

Further in, read about Catholic schools going charter in New York (on which we got an update this morning), an LA charter school reaching out to the union, how much money teachers really make (the answer: tons), and how students in Ontario are planning on saving the planet... one Valentine's day card at a time. You'll also get the scoop on the data-heavy report of the American Legislative Exchange Council and a shocking new study trying to link (though unsuccessfully, in our opinion)...

We wrote yesterday in the Gadfly??that??four New York City Catholic schools will be saved by going charter. While that number has not increased, the NY Daily News reports that the church will keep open two more schools as is. Not clear which schools are which or which out of the 14 originially slated to be closed in May are still getting shut down. But the news is good (well, considering the circumstances): 6 schools (not just 4) will be saved.??

Now, from where is the boodle to do all of this going to come? Diane Ravitch suggests...

We were all sort of shocked a few weeks ago when KIPP AMP and another KIPP school in New York reached out the New York United Federation of Teachers. How could a school whose model is based on long hours and staff hiring and firing autonomy possibly consider union representation, which would, in effect, prohibit those two things? Then, just this week, another famous charter school, LA's Accelerated, announced its teachers were reaching out their local union, too. Well, it looks like KIPP's teachers may have changed their minds after all. According to yesterday's??New York Times, AMP's teachers have let the deadline pass to voluntarily recognize the union. The UFT must now file for recognition with New York State's Public Employment Relations Board. Let's hope the KIPP administration, which will be given an opportunity to respond by the PER Board, puts its foot down! Stay tuned...

Update: I misread... the teachers have (in my opinion, unfortunately) not changed their minds about unionizing. The school is simply running down the clock on recognizing them.

Update: After all of you pointed out that I had read too quickly, I became curious on what exactly KIPP could...

Democrats in Ohio have had it out for for-profit charter school operators since the state passed its first charter law in 1997. Cries of ???????corporate takeover of public schools??????? and ???????making money on the backs of our children??????? have been part of the anti-charter rhetoric used by the teacher unions and their allies from the start here.

Yet, it is important to note that in Ohio all charter schools are governed by non-profit boards who may, or may not, decide to hire for-profit operators to run their schools. This is not dissimilar to how school districts decide to purchase curricula, text books, and food services from for-profit providers like McGraw-Hill and Aramark.

Knowing the history, it is not surprising then that the Democratic governor and the House Democrats, who run that chamber for the first time in 14 years, have painted a giant bull's eye on the backs of for-profit school operators. They especially hate White Hat Management (which runs more than two dozen schools in Ohio) and its founder, and major Republican campaign contributor, David Brennan.

If successful, this would be the first time an entire segment of...

Checker and I have some, about how to implement the stimulus package,??in this week's Gadfly. Here's a snippet:

Be transparent. This is already an Obama administration mantra and for good reason. Particularly when implementing your innovation fund, there's no such thing as too much transparency. That's because discretionary federal dollars are like boiling oil, at least in education. Instead of statutory strings attached, there are non-statutory risks. Two are paramount--and have plagued previous education secretaries. First, when you give money to the QRS organization or project, you're not giving it to the XYZ group. That will anger the XYZ folks, who will complain to you, to the White House, to the Congress, and to the media. If complaining doesn't lead to their palms, too, being crossed with federal dollars, they will lambaste you, QRS, and the program itself. That's another big part of what got Reading First into deep trouble--grumps from those who did not get funded. (Read more here.) And second, you will be accused of favoritism, of giving money to your friends, admirers, and political backers. (But why would you give money to your enemies?) That's what happened when Rod Paige steered dollars toward worthy but


This letter to the editor is worth reading:

To the Editor:

Education Week readers should know that Massachusetts' stellar scores in science and math in both grade 4 and grade 8 on the 2007 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study are due to more than strong academic standards and content-oriented professional development ("Standards Help Minn. Vie With Top Nations," Jan. 21, 2009.) As in Minnesota, the only other U.S. state to participate in TIMSS in both 1995 and 2007, many factors have contributed to impressive gains, an indication of the latest "Massachusetts Miracle."

I was the deputy commissioner at the Massachusetts Department of Education from 1999 to 2003, responsible not only for assuring the academic quality of the state's math and science standards (with considerable help from mathematicians and scientists), but also for aligning the state's teacher-licensing regulations, and the revised licensure tests based on them, directly to these standards. The new licensure tests for elementary and middle school teachers, in particular, stressed content, not pedagogy, and weighted math and science more heavily than before, leading to an academically stronger teacher corps in K-8 since 2002.

But there is one more factor your


According to this New York Times column, the father of modern biology, who was born 200 years ago today,??would be "pleased,??but not surprised" by the developments in genetics and other fields that have furthered our understanding of evolution and natural selection. But no doubt he would be outraged to learn that only four in ten Americans believe in the theory of evolution, according to a new??Gallup Poll. The news is slightly less glum for young Americans (aged 18-34); about half of them believe in the e-word. Perhaps the other half are clustered in the 23 states that, as of 2005 at least, had squishy enough standards on evolution to earn this element a D or F from Fordham's science experts.

Get the minute-by-minute at Education Week's Politics K-12??blog. It looks like the contours of the bill are closer to the Senate version; it's not clear yet if the reform-minded??pieces of the House bill (on charters, merit pay, data systems, etc.) made it through.