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As pundits parse the policy shifts revealed in the domestic-focused State of the Union, many have questions about the president's stance on education. Education spending is exempt from the domestic spending freeze, but some commentators fear funding to school districts will decline. Others debate where and how money should be distributed, as the administration enforces fiscal discipline. Here are both liberal and conservative evaluations of the Obama education plan as we begin 2010:

  • SOTU Generally Good on Education, decides Chester Finn at the conservative National Review, who likes the "main themes" of Obama's State of the Union, including "us[ing] federal education dollars to reward success, not failure" and keeping "a 'competitive" element in this, rather than simply distributing dollars via formula." Finn also notes that education will be exempted from the domestic spending freeze.
  • Despite Freeze Exemption, Education Money Decreasing At The Quick and the Ed, Rob Manwaring starts breaking down numbers and comes to an interesting conclusion: the planned increase in baseline education spending won't be enough to make up for the expiration of the past year's one-off stimulus spending on education. "For [some] districts, $12.5 billion in lower federal funding (end of Title I and special education stimulus funds) plus $4 billion in new federal funding may not feel like a federal budget that they will be celebrating."
  • All As It Should Be, But Not Enough, thinks Think Progress's Matthew Yglesias. "The stimulus should be for the purposes of temporary stimulus and not used to confuse the baseline issue." Still, he adds, though the "right thing is being done here ... it's all arguably being done at too low a level.The stimulus was too small to begin with, and consequently weak economic conditions are going to persist into FY 2011 (it starts in October) so the pivot toward spending discipline looks to be timed wrong."
  • Not As It Should Be--Ditch Head Start If the Obama administration is looking for fiscal discipline, Andrew Coulson wishes they'd begin with Head Start. In the New York Post, Coulson points to a new study showing that Head Start, "the most sacrosanct federal education program, doesn't work." Yet instead administration officials are looking to raise Head Start funding. Coulson would rather see the money spent on a "federal program that pays private-school tuition for poor DC families," which "has been shown to raise students' reading performance by more than two grade levels after just three years."

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