Education Week - January 8, 2014 - (Page 14)

GOVERNMENT& POLITICS Congressional Appropriators Turn to K-12 Spending Details Program budgets at play in latest talks The broad spending deal, which was negotiated by Rep. Paul By Alyson Klein Big questions loom about just how much money Congress will steer to individual programs-including the Obama administration's marquee competitive-grant initiatives-with lawmakers on House and Senate appropriations committees facing a Jan. 15 deadline to fill in details on the current year's spending plan or face another government shutdown. School districts that have been chafing under across-the-board federal cuts known as sequestration for nearly a year got a twoyear reprieve under the agreement approved last month that effectively scales back the cuts to education by 87 percent over that period, according to an analysis by the Committee for Education Funding, a lobbying coalition in Washington. But the deal, which sets discretionary spending levels at roughly $1.02 trillion for the overall budget this year and will keep them relatively flat for the next two years, leaves little room for big new initiatives, such as President Barack Obama's highprofile proposal to expand preschool to more 4-year-olds. Tough Choices The spending-bill negotiations are likely to set up another showdown of sorts. Lawmakers will have to decide whether to steer the entire expected increase for education into funding for big formula programs favored by advocates-such as Title I grants to districts, which help educate disadvantaged students, and special education-or direct some money to the administration's prized competitive-grant programs, including Race to the Top, Investing in Innovation, and the School Improvement Grant program. "We're still operating in tight budget years, we're not out of the woods," Clare McCann, a policy analyst at the New America Foundation's Federal Education Budget Project, said. "It's very contentious to find places to cut, but it's still going to be contentious to find places to add money." Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., sailed through a Congress that has been paralyzed by a series of fiscal showdowns for more than two years. It was approved by the House of Representatives on Dec. 12, by a vote of 332-94, and the Senate on Dec. 18, by a vote of 64-36. The plan means that school districts, which saw their funding cut roughly 5 percent under sequestration, mostly during the 201314 school year, won't have to cope with yet another round of federal reductions. Nick of Time Sequestration has had an uneven impact on education. Some schools have barely noticed the cuts, thanks in part to brightening state fiscal pictures. But others, including districts that get federal Impact Aid, which helps make up for tax revenue lost because of a federal presence, were pummeled. Head Start, an early-childhood education program for low-income children administered under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, was hit particularly hard, losing 57,000 slots after sequestration went into effect in March 2012. Now those programs could see an increase in funding. Districts that have felt the squeeze say the fiscal breathing room can't come soon enough. "At least we're hopeful now, and we haven't been hopeful for a while," said David Pennington, the superintendent of the 5,400-student Ponca City district in Oklahoma. It has lost more than $150,000 to sequestration, on a budget of nearly $34 million. He said the district-whose student population is roughly 20 percent Native American-was largely able to avoid staff layoffs in 2013. But, he said, "we weren't going to be able to do that going forward." The two-year spending agreement doesn't mean a permanent end to the prospect of cuts. The reductions are slated to be in place for a decade unless lawmakers come up with a longer-term agreement on the right mix of taxes and spending. To cover the cost of temporarily halting sequestration, the PAGE 16 > > Lawmakers will write appropriations bills for fiscal year 2014, which largely covers the 2014- 15 school year. The bills, which must be passed by Jan. 15, will determine whether lawmakers boost funding for the formula programs that go out to every district, such as Title I grants for disadvantaged students. > The agreement sets relatively flat spending levels for the next federal fiscal year, meaning that new money for big initiatives, such as the president's preschool proposal, may be in short supply. > After about two years, the sequester cuts could kick in again unless Congress comes to some new, broader agreement. The cuts are slated to be in place for a decade. SOURCE: U.S. Congress, Education Week NEXT STEPS After more than a year of fiscal turmoil, the U.S. Congress has approved a budget plan that temporarily rolls back part of the sequester cuts, which trimmed about 5 percent of federal K-12 spending during the 2013-14 school year. So what happens now? Rural Districts Win Big In Race to Top Awards By Michele McNeil In selecting the winners for the second round of the Race to the Top district competition, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan made a strategic decision to invest a large chunk of the $120 million in grants in rural America. In fact, he passed up higher-scor- ing, more-urban districts in favor of funding a group of 17 school systems in Kentucky's rural Appalachia and a small, mostly black district in the Mississippi Delta. Of the five winners announced last month, Houston was the only large, urban district. "We want to make sure we're serv- ing children across the country," Mr. Duncan said in a call with reporters announcing the winners. The goal, he said, is to "get a mix of innovation in very different communities." He did, however, acknowledge that there were far more deserving applications than money to pay for them. Southern Sweep The five winners, which are all from the South and beat out more than 200 other applicants, are: * Clarendon County School District Two, a consortium of four urban and rural districts in central South Carolina with a high percentage of minority students and a burgeoning population of English-learners. Winnings: $25 million. * Clarksdale Municipal school district in the Mississippi Delta, a mostly black district with 3,350 students. Winnings: $10 million. * Houston, a 200,000-student district and two-time winner of the Broad Prize for Urban Education. Winnings: $30 million. * Kentucky Valley Educational Coop- erative, a consortium of 17 rural districts in rural Appalachia educating 42,300 students, that narrowly missed winning during the first round of competition in 2012. Winnings: $30 million. * Springdale school district in the northwest corner of Arkansas. Near the Tyson Foods headquarters, it enrolls 20,500 students, including many English-learners and immigrants from the Marshall Islands. Winnings: $26 million. "We have been extremely focused for many years on drastically increasing student achievement. The great benefits of this partnership [with the Education Department] give us renewed hope of being able 14 | EDUCATION WEEK | January 8, 2014 | to do that," said Jim D. Rollins, Springdale's superintendent, during the Dec. 17 media call. "We're interested in a personalized education plan for every child. And then developing the capacity of our teachers to deliver that personalized education plan." The Race to the Top district compe- tition, which seeks to spur personalized learning at the local level, is a relatively new iteration of the Obama administration's signature Race to the Top brand. In 2012, the first in which districts could compete, Mr. Duncan picked 16 winners to split a much-larger $400 million pot. That winners' circle included three charter-management organizations, another large rural cooperative in Kentucky, and one large, urban district, Miami-Dade County, Fla. This year, however, Mr. Duncan deliberately passed over applications that were given higher marks PAGE 16 > Myrtle Hall IV Elementary School teacher Gabrielle Wooden, left, and 1st grader Camilyn Anderson, 7, lead a Spanish class in Clarksdale, Miss. The Clarksdale school system won a $10 million Race to the Top grant for a range of school improvement efforts in the latest round of the federal competition. Rogelio V. Solis/AP-File

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - January 8, 2014

Education Week - January 8, 2014
State Legislators Fire Up Engines
Inspections Piloted for Teacher Prep
Student Views Shifting on Risks Of Marijuana
L.A. School Bridges Home-School Gap
InBloom Sputters as Data Privacy Hits the Spotlight
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Fariña to Lead N.Y.C. Public Schools
Judge Censures District’s Use of ‘Hess Report’
Los Angeles, D.C. Outshine Urban Peers in NAEP Gains
Blogs of the Week
Cloud Computing Expands, Raising Data-Privacy Concerns
Congressional Appropriators Turn To K-12 Spending Details
Rural Districts Win Big in Race To Top Awards
States Split Latest Pot of Early-Learning Aid
Blogs of the Week
ERIC A. HANUSHEK: Why the U.S. Results on PISA Matter
ROBERT WEINTRAUB & DAVID WEINTRAUB: Why Arne Duncan’s PISA Comments Miss the Mark
JACK DALE: Learning From a Test
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
PETER W. COOKSON JR.: Looking for Equity on the Yellow School Bus

Education Week - January 8, 2014