Education Week - August 30, 2017 - 14
GOVERNMENT & POLITICS
How States Will Slice
ESSA Block-Grant Pie
Most to use formula aid, not competitions
By Alyson Klein
For decades, school district leaders
have been clamoring for more say over
how they spend their federal money.
And when the Every Student Succeeds Act passed in 2015, it looked
like they had finally gotten their wish:
a brand-new $1.6 billion block grant
that could be used for computer science initiatives, suicide prevention,
new band instruments, and almost
anything else that could improve students' well-being or provide them with
a well-rounded education.
But, for now at least, it looks like
most district officials will only get a
small sliver of the funding they had
hoped for, putting the block grant's effectiveness and future in doubt.
The Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants-or Title
IV of ESSA-only received about a
quarter of the funding the law recommends, $400 million for the 2017-18
school year, when ESSA will be fully
in place for the first time.
To help get a bigger bang for the
fund's considerably reduced buck,
Congress gave states the option,
for one year only, to dole the money
out through a competitive process,
allowing for fewer, but more-ambitious projects.
Most states, though, are still
opting to pump the money out
through a formula that assures
each district at least some of the
pie, an Education Week survey has
found. Only seven states have said
for sure that they will run a competition. That means most districts
will get a relatively small sum-as
little as the required minimum of
$10,000-instead of larger grants
to a fortunate few.
In fact, the program will receive
so little money that many districts
could decide to take another option
in ESSA: directing Title IV funding
to another federal program, including Title II grants for teacher quality,
which weathered a more than $200
million cut in the most recent budget.
But if the money isn't used for innovative initiatives, advocates may
not have much to show for the inaugural year of the grant. That's not
a great position for Title IV to be
in as Congress and the Trump administration seek to hack domestic
spending, including for K-12 education. President Donald Trump put
Title IV on the chopping block in his
first budget proposal.
"The tough thing is that the block
grant was set up to be reliant on adequate funding in order to be successful," said Ally Bernstein, a member of
the steering committee of a coalition
of more than 50 organizations advocating for Title IV funding.
Bernstein is grateful that Congress
was able to fund the program at all
and appreciates that the House of
Representatives is seeking an in-
UNPACKING A NEW
The Every Student Succeeds Act collapses a number of small,
targeted programs into what's supposed to be a big, flexible
block grant under Title IV of the new federal law. The new
program is known as the Student Support and Academic
What can the money be used for? Districts can use the
money for a wide range of things, including student safety, mental
health, arts education, technology, and college-and-career
readiness. They can also transfer the funding to other programs in
ESSA, including Title II, the main program for teacher quality.
How much is it actually getting? $400 million for federal
fiscal year 2017, which generally affects the 2017-18 school year.
How will the money be allocated? Since the program didn't
get as much funding as Congress had envisioned in its first year,
states had a choice of sending the money out by formula assuring
each district at least a small amount of money or through a
competition. Most chose to do it by formula.
How much money does ESSA recommend for the
program? $1.6 billion in fiscal year 2017.
crease, to $500 million, in the fiscal
2018 budget. She would love to see
all districts get the funding and be
able to spread their money out over
several different priorities. "We want
this program to live up to the promise
of the way it was written," she said.
She's hoping the states that set up
competitions for the money can show
lawmakers what's possible when the
grants are sizable enough to make
a difference. "The biggest change is
going to come from these competitive
grants," she said.
But Bernstein acknowledges there
won't be as many examples to look to
as she would like.
So far, Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New
York, and Oklahoma have said they
will run a competition among dis-
SOURCE: Every Student Succeeds Act, Education Week
tricts for the money. At least one of
those states-Nebraska-picked the
competitive option in part because it
would have been tough to offer every
district the required minimum of
$10,000. And one state-Montana-
said it was still trying to decide
whether to allocate their funds by
formula or through a competition.
A handful of states are trying for
what they describe as a hybrid solution. Massachusetts is planning to allocate the money by formula, but any
unclaimed funds could be awarded
through a competition.
Rhode Island will pump the
money out by formula but would
like to direct as much as possible toward two standing priorities: early
literacy and advanced coursework,
said Ken Wagner, the commissioner
of education. He sees this middle
ground as the best approach.
"I'm not sure how that is helpful
if we fund three or four of our 35
districts," Wagner said. "We also
don't want the money just to disappear."
Hawaii, a state that has only
one school district, is planning to
roll the money into Title II, the
main federal program dealing with
teacher quality. The Aloha State
would get about $1.9 million from
Title IV, a spokeswoman explained,
which "would not be enough to
fund a high-quality, stand-alone
initiative in Hawaii."
The formula option doesn't leave
much room for creative new initiatives, some local officials say.
Betsy Webb, the superintendent of
the 3,800-student Bangor district
in Maine, was hoping to spend
the money on an item that's been
on her wish list for some time: a
new, STEM-focused, project-basedlearning initiative for elementary
Federal Judge Finds 'Racial Animus' in Ariz. Ethnic-Studies Ban
a final judgment. Plaintiffs' lawyers hoped sians are oppressors of Hispanics," Huppenhe would throw out the law, which was en- thal said.
Racism was behind an Arizona ban on eth- acted in 2010.
Horne, a former state attorney general and a
nic studies that shuttered a popular Mexicanformer leader of Arizona's public schools, testiAmerican Studies program, a federal judge has Officials Criticized
fied in July that he was troubled by what he
ruled, finding that the state enacted the ban
described as radical instructors teaching stuwith discriminatory intent.
Tashima was critical in his ruling of for- dents to be disruptive.
U.S. District Judge A. Wallace Tashima had mer state schools chiefs Tom Horne and John
Horne also said he found contents of the curpreviously upheld most of the law in a civil Huppenthal, who railed against the ethnic- riculum to be racist and to make Latino stulawsuit filed by students in the Tucson school studies program and helped pass the law that dents feel like they are victims. He took issue
district. But a federal appeals court, while up- ended it.
with a classroom that had a poster of Argenholding most of his ruling, sent the case back
"Additional evidence shows that defendants tine revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara.
to trial to determine if the ban was enacted were pursuing these discriminatory ends in
"You have a right to advocate for all those
with racist intent.
order to make political gains. Horne and things, but not on the taxpayers' dime in our
The new trial was held in July.
Huppenthal repeatedly pointed to their ef- public schools," Horne said.
The law prohibits courses that promote re- forts against the MAS program in their reHe denied that racism was behind the battle
sentment toward a race or a class of people spective 2011 political campaigns, including against the program and the law that ended
or advocate ethnic solidarity instead of treat- in speeches and radio advertisements. The it, saying he was a crusader against racism
ing people as individuals. A portion of the issue was a political boon to the candidates," and that his parents were refugees from Nazilaw that banned courses designed primarily Tashima wrote.
for students of a particular ethnic group was
Huppenthal said he was not surprised by
the ruling and said it was meaningless be- Response to Ruling
In the ruling last week, Tashima said that cause the law is not likely to be enforced in
the state violated students' constitutional the future.
In response to the latest court ruling, Horne
rights "because both enactment and enforce"The concern about what was going on in said that Tashima's decision promotes a proment were motivated by racial animus." those classes was very real," he said.
gram that "divides students by race and proHowever, Tashima said he doesn't know a
His new concern "would be if they crank up motes ethnic chauvinism."
remedy for the violation and has not issued all that stuff of teaching students that Cauca"I believe it is a fundamental American
14 | EDUCATION WEEK | August 30, 2017 | www.edweek.org
ideal that we are all individuals, entitled to be
judged by our knowledge and character, and
not by what race we happen to have been born
into," he said in a statement.
The Tucson program began in 1998 and focused on Mexican-American history, literature,
and art in an effort to keep Mexican-American
students in school and engaged. Students
who participated outperformed their peers in
grades and standardized tests, advocates said.
Tucson's school board officially dismantled
the program in January 2012 to keep from
losing state funding. The district had not responded to questions from the Associated
Press about whether it would revive the program if the law is thrown out.
By 2015, the district was expanding a "culturally relevant" curriculum developed in
the wake of a separate racial-desegregation
lawsuit. Those courses are now taught at all
district high schools, Superintendent Gabriel
He said the district worked with the Arizona education department to ensure the
courses don't violate the state law and are
"very scripted," including offerings such as
American history from an African-American
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - August 30, 2017
Education Week - August 30, 2017
Delayed Start to School Tough Call for Parents
More Americans Give Top Grades To Schools in Latest PDK Poll
An Unlikely ESSA Provision: Warning on Copyright Piracy
Grad. Rate Rule Creates Quandary for States
State Chiefs’ Pay Squeezed Between Duties, Politics
News in Brief
For Most Students, Closing Failing Schools Doesn’t Help
Obama-Era School Snack Rules Slow to Change Students’ Habits
The District Where Principals Run Their Schools—and Teach
Teacher Fellows Tread Fine Line At Ed. Dept
Federal Judge Finds ‘Racial Animus’ In Ariz. Ethnic-Studies Ban
How States Will Slice ESSA Block-Grant Pie
Hiring Deals Include More Than Base Pay
Monique Darrisaw-Akil: We Can Fix Credit Recovery
Bernard Gassaway: Public School Officials Are Artificially Inflating Graduation Rates. I’ve Seen It Myself
John Kline: ESSA Co-Author: Enforce the Law
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Miriam Kurtzig Freedman: Is the SAT Still Valid?
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - State Chiefs’ Pay Squeezed Between Duties, Politics
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - 2
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - 3
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - News in Brief
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - 5
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - Obama-Era School Snack Rules Slow to Change Students’ Habits
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - The District Where Principals Run Their Schools—and Teach
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - Teacher Fellows Tread Fine Line At Ed. Dept
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - 9
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - 10
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - 11
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - 12
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - 13
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - How States Will Slice ESSA Block-Grant Pie
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - 15
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - 16
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - Hiring Deals Include More Than Base Pay
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - Bernard Gassaway: Public School Officials Are Artificially Inflating Graduation Rates. I’ve Seen It Myself
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - John Kline: ESSA Co-Author: Enforce the Law
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - Letters
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - 21
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - 23
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - Miriam Kurtzig Freedman: Is the SAT Still Valid?
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - CW1
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - CW2
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - CW3
Education Week - August 30, 2017 - CW4