The education in the USA traditionally confronted serious challenges and unsurpassable barriers because of the lack of funding and the lack of access to education for a considerable part of the American population. In such a situation, the education system is particularly vulnerable to the negative impact of the economic crisis which threatens to cut spending on education even more. Within the last couple of decades the state spending on education has increased substantially, but many specialists still argued that the system of public education is ineffective, while the state support and funding of schools and education system at large is absolutely ineffective. Nevertheless, today, the state funding and support of education seems to be the only possible way in which the national system of education can maintain its steady development and, what is more important, keep a possibly larger number of students involved in the national education system that will prevent illiteracy en mass. Obviously, today, the national education needs the state support as it has never needed before because the profound economic crisis limits educational opportunities of the population even more and the least protected groups of the population, including low-income families, run out of chances to provide their children with the basic education even at the level of public schools, while higher education become an unattainable goal for them. Therefore, Obama’s education stimulus plan becomes crucial for the normal development of the education system of the USA and the accessibility of education to all Americans. However, the proposed plan tends to increase the funding of the education and state support of education, but it fails to introduce consistent changes in the national system of education to make it more effective and less dependent on the state support.
On analyzing the education stimulus plan developed by Barak Obama administration, it should be said that the plan implies a consistent increase of the funding of education. To put it more precisely, according to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, up to $ 141,6 billion will go to education. The direct funding of education will increase 159% compared to 2008 (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, 2009). In this respect, the main direction of the state funding of education is the financial support of public schools and students that is supposed to increase educational opportunities and provide all students with the possibility to get education. At first glance the proposed plan seems to be effective since with the larger funding, the education system can make education more accessible to students.
At this point, it is possible to dwell upon the stimulus plan and its main points. First of all, the student financial assistance will comprise $15,84 billion which will be available for Pell Grants, which are need-based grants to low-income undergraduate college students that will be $500 per student (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, 2009). In such a way, students in need, i.e. students from low-income families will get the state support and an opportunity to continue their education. On the other hand, it is obvious that the economic situation in the USA has deteriorated consistently and the increase of the student financial assistance is an essential step but it can hardly stimulate the consistent enlargement of educational opportunities for students from low-income families. In fact, specialists (Russell, 2002) argue that the increase of state funding and student financial assistance in the time of economic crisis will rather close the gap between increased costs of education and spending of students and their families than improve education system or increase educational opportunities. In other words, the increase of the student financial assistance will not really improve the position of students in need but it will just let them keep pace with the deteriorating socio-economic situation, which steadily limits their education opportunities. Therefore, the student financial assistance will maintain the current situation in the education rather than launch substantial improvements for students from low-income families.
Furthermore, the stimulus plan developed by Barak Obama administration includes $13,9 billion on American Opportunity Tax Credit.
This means that students will have an opportunity to get up to $2.500 per-person tax-credit for college students in 2009-2010 (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, 2009). The tax credit will make college education more affordable to students. In this respect, it is important to lay emphasis on the fact that the tax can really improve the education opportunities for college students, although it apparently postpones the education spending of students at the time when they can get a job and pay the credit back. In actuality, the tax credit stimulate students and their families to increase spending on education because, on the one hand, they can save on taxes, while, on the other hand, investment in education are traditionally highly prospective since they can bring consistent profits when students get their education and start their professional career.
At the same time, the stimulus plan includes $13 billion, which are supposed to be spent on education for the disadvantaged (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, 2009). This financial support will enforce the No Child Left Behind Act and it is supposed to enlarge educational opportunities for students from low-income families who cannot afford education. In addition, the funding of education for the disadvantaged is important for the provision of equal opportunities and fair conditions for all students regardless of their social status.
However, it is obvious that such financial support will hardly close the gap between students living in low-income families and students from the middle class or upper-class families. Nevertheless, students from low-income families will get a chance to get their education with the state assistance.
The stimulus also pays a lot of attention to students with disabilities since $12,2 billion are supposed to be spent on the enforcement of educational programs in terms of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, 2009). In such a way, children with disabilities will not be excluded from the system of education. In this respect, it is worth mentioning the fact that the funding of education for students with disabilities is very important because the economic crisis undermines the position of such students. Their families cannot afford education for their children, especially when the costs of health care services are constantly growing, while not all families can afford insurance coverage for their children with disabilities.
Furthermore, it is important to lay emphasis on the fact that the stimulus plan implies increasing funding of state incentive grants and innovation fund grants. In such a way, the state attempts to stimulate innovation trends in education and to encourage students to continue their education, to develop their academic skills and abilities and to focus on innovative activities (Witt, 2009). It proves beyond a doubt that grants which support students’ innovations and their researches can lay the foundation for the development of the future science, while many students, who have good skills and abilities and who are creative, cannot afford the development of their skills or their researches because they need funding. In such a situation, the state support is really crucial for such students. Moreover, the funding of innovation fund grants and state incentive grants will encourage students to continue their education because they will feel the state support and that they can make a successful scientific career.
Obviously, the suggested stimulus plan will support the modern education system. However, it is worth mentioning the fact that a considerable part of funds will be directed to the maintenance of the current educational programs and financial aid to students in need, including students from low-income families and students with disabilities. At the same time, the increase of funding will basically cover the increased expenses of students and their families, but will not really improve their actual position. Therefore, students will maintain their current position and they will get the same opportunities as they have today. Nevertheless, the introduction of stimulant programs and increase of their funding, such as state incentive grants and innovation fund grants, along with the education tax credit are very prospective since they do not only support students and their families but they also encourage students to continue their education. In such a situation, it is possible to recommend focusing on such stimulant programs and plans, while state funds should be used more effectively to reform the modern education system to make it truly fair and available to all students.