Continuing to hammer away at a piecemeal approach to reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) has introduced a bill intended to provide states and districts with maximum flexibility in using federal funds. The committee has already approved two other bills aimed at eliminating a number of programs authorized under ESEA and reauthorizing the federal Charter Schools Program.
In a radio interview during which he announced the bill’s introduction, Chairman Kline said “It’s very, very frustrating for [superintendents] to see money that they could get their hands on if the government would allow them to do so…It has been perplexing to them and frustrating to schools all across the country that they cannot move money to where they need it.”
The State and Local Funding Flexibility Act would allow states and districts to transfer funds between various titles of ESEA, including Title I (aid for disadvantaged students), Title II (teacher quality state grants), and Title III (English language acquisition). Districts could also transfer funds from migrant education, neglected and delinquent programs, and Indian education. Activities for which these funds could be used include the above-mentioned programs, School Improvement Grants, Reading First, Math and Science Partnerships, 21st Century Community Learning Centers, and early intervening services under section 613(f) of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
According to a bill summary on the committee’s Web site, the legislation would maintain the monitoring, reporting, and accountability requirements for states and districts under existing ESEA programs. Districts would also be required to notify the state on how they plan to use their federal funds, but there would be no application or approval process.
NASSP has serious concerns about the State and Local Funding Flexibility Act and will likely oppose the bill if it is not vastly improved during the committee markup, which is expected to take place on July 13. Many of the programs identified by this bill were created to improve educational opportunities for specific student populations that were underserved by their states and districts, and the federal government stepped in to fill this void. Title I, which is provided to schools that serve a large number of economically disadvantaged students, is greatly underfunded, and we fear that even fewer resources would be made available to middle level and high schools that are technically eligible to receive this funding.
State educational agencies and districts are experiencing staff shortages in this tough economic climate and may not have the capacity to assess their schools’ specific needs or ensure that low-income and minority students are receiving all the services they need to achieve academically. We are also concerned that states and districts could transfer all of their Title II funds, making it more likely that fewer resources will be made available for professional development for teachers and principals at a time when they need it most.