When the feds try to fix schools . . .

Carrots, Sticks, and the Bully Pulpit: Lessons from a Half-Century of Federal Efforts to Improve America s Schools, edited by Rick Hess and Andrew P. Kelly, looks at what Uncle Sam does and doesn’t do well. Contributors include Ron Ferguson, Mike Smith, Larry Berger, Charlie Barone, Maris Vinovskis, Mike Casserly, Checker Finn, Mark Schneider, Liz DeBray, Pat McGuinn, Jennifer Wallner, Paul Manna, Josh Dunn and Jane Hannaway.

Hess has more in Ed Week on the book and on an American Enterprise Institute discussion on Education 2012: What the Election Year Will Mean for Education Policy.

Schools average $9,666 per student

Public schools spent an average of $9,666 per student in 2007, an increase of 5.8 percent from the previous year, the Census reports. The federal share was 8.3 percent.

New York schools spend the most per student ($15,981) while Utah sepnds the least ($5,683). “Also in the top three were New Jersey at $15,691 per pupil and Washington, D.C. at $14,324,” reports the New York Times.

The stimulus funds will stimulate the appetite for more federal education spending, predicted Russ Whitehurst, director of the Brown Center on Education Policy and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

”Once you start giving money to people, you create the appetite for more. I think the 2009 numbers will be a lot different than the 2007 ones,” Whitehurst said.

In Louisiana, 17.6 percent of education funding comes from Washington; in New Jersey, it’s only 4 percent.

Stimulus and strings

Schools will receive an extra $142 billion over two years in the $825 billion stimulus bill, reports USA Today.  Strings include:

• High-quality educational tests.

• Ways to recruit and retain top teachers in hard-to-staff schools.

• Longitudinal data systems that let schools track long-term progress.

On Swift & Change Able, Charles Barone, a former congressonal staffer, analyzes the potential to use the extra money to fund change — or more of the same.

For example, states promise that funds will be used “to improve assessments, more efficiently collect data, and equalize the distribution of qualified teachers,” he writes. But states already have made those “assurances.”

All they will have to do is copy and paste language from their old plans and re-submit them.

This means that with all the complaints we have heard about current assessment systems (the responsibility for which lies solely with the states) and the inequitable distribution of teachers (the responsibility for which lies with both schools and districts) and the promises for change, states and districts can take billions and billions in new federal education dollars and do more or less on these issues exactly what they are doing now.

He’s got a lot more on the way to hand out money without creating a giant slush fund. A congressional committee starts the write- up today.