Obama Is Underfunding ESSA Title I by at Least $200 Million
On March 15, 2016, eleven national education groups sent this two-page letter to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees concerning the underfunding of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). In sum, local districts will lose an expected $200 million because states will be allowed to keep money from districts in order to fulfill requirements of state money “set aside” for school improvement.
In No Child Left Behind (NCLB), states still has to set aside such funding; however, states were not allowed to serve themselves before guaranteeing that districts received adequate funding.
As the letter notes, ESSA raises the amount of funding required for the state set-aside from four to seven percent even as it removes the condition that states not serve themselves before satisfying needs of districts. So, under ESSA, the states will need more money for that school improvement set-aside even as districts are left unprotected and at the mercy of states facing already deficient ESSA funding for FY 2017.
Obama advertised increasing ESSA Title I funding by $450 million, but this “increase” is illusory; under NCLB, school improvement grants (SIG) were not part of Title I, but in ESSA, they are. The FY 2016 cost of SIG was $450 million– which means Obama’s Title I “increase” is in reality a breaking even at best.
And that is without the raising of the state set-aside from four to seven percent– hence, the $200 million projected deficit for the rollout year of ESSA.
Here is the language from the letter:
President Obama proposed a $450 million ‘increase’ for Title IA in FY17. We are deeply concerned that, for reasons outlined below, this amount is insufficient and will actually result in a projected cut of at least $200 million at the local level. The proposal does not reflect an actual increase in the full context of statutory changes in ESSA related to program consolidation, state set aside, and the hold harmless provision.
ESSA consolidates the School Improvement Grants (SIG) program into Title I. SIG was funded at $450 million in FY16, accounting for the full amount of the President’s proposed increase. More succinctly, these dollars are already in schools, and proposal is merely shifting the funding from SIG to Title I.
The effective cuts to school districts come from a change in state set aside for school improvement. ESSA raises the state set aside from four to seven percent for school improvement and removes the Title I state set‐aside hold harmless requirement for FY17. Under No Child Left Behind, the hold harmless provision ensured that local level allocations would not be reduced as a result of the state school improvement set‐aside. States had to ensure level funding for school districts before taking the set aside, and recent funding realities created a scenario where the money that remained available for the state set aside was below four percent. Increasing the set aside to seven percent, in coordination with lifting the hold harmless, will create a funding vacuum, whereby dollars flow first to the state and then to the local level. The fiscal pressure of meeting the increased set aside under ESSA and backfilling funds for states that were operating with less than a four percent set‐aside will result in significant cuts to local Title I programs. The Education Department’s Title I budget request at best would translate into a $200 million shortfall for local level allocations and at worst a significantly greater shortfall. …
We strongly urge Congress to fund Title IA at a level $450 million above the President’s proposed level, an aggregate increase for school districts in their local level subgrant allocations for school year 2017‐18, and ensure that no school district receives less Title I funding to implement the first year of ESSA.
The letter is signed by the following organizations:
- AASA, The School Superintendents Association
- American Federation of Teachers
- Association of Educational Service Agencies
- Association of School Business Officials International
- Council of Great City Schools
- National Association of Elementary School Principals
- National Association of Secondary School Principals
- National Education Association
- National Rural Education Advocacy Coalition
- National Rural Education Association
- National School Boards Association
The following legislators received the letter:
- Senator Thad Cochran Chair, Senate Appropriations Committee
- Senator Barbara Mikulski Ranking Member, Senate Appropriations Committee
- Senator Roy Blunt Chair, Senate LHHS Appropriations SubCommittee
- Senator Patty Murray Ranking Member, Senate LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee
- Representative Harold Rogers Chair, House Appropriations Committee
- Representative Nita Lowery Ranking Member, House Appropriations Committee
- Representative Tom Cole Chair, House LHHS Appropriations SubCommittee
- Representative Rosa DeLauro Ranking Member, House LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee
As it stands, ESSA Title I is funded in a manner guaranteed to inadequately reach (and serve) districts and schools.
Apparently the concerns in the above letter were immediately realized when Obama released his FY 2017 budget on February 09, 2016.
If that is the case, then why did Obama not address the issue prior to releasing the FY 2017 budget?