The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), signed by President Barak Obama in 2015, replaces the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001 signed by President George W. Bush in 2002. ESSA is the reauthorized and amended civil rights law of 1965; the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The purpose of ESSA is to ensure that every student has access to a high-quality education. The 2016-2017 academic year marks a transition period to new legislation, and full implementation of ESSA has been expected to take place during 2017-2018. Programs funded under this bill were authorized for a period of four years; from 2017-2020. But 2017 has brought more than a move from NCLB to ESSA: the U.S. government has transitioned to a new administration with new plans emerging from the Department of Education. Accordingly, the Administration, as well as Congressional members, have presented different ideas and made some new decisions about ESSA’s legislative language and requirements—particularly related to increased responsibility of the states over local K-12 education, accountability rules, and the federal budget for programs under ESSA. At this point, state and district leaders are finalizing accountability systems and preparing applications for ESSA’s various grant programs. This period of flux may—or may not—present some challenges with planning for the next school year. The future of federal funding streams as previously authorized is uncertain, yet the legislative model does offer flexibility as to how states distribute funds to districts and schools.
ESSA Update on State Plan Submissions
The United States Department of Education has given states two submission deadlines; April 3rd and September 18th, respectively. So far, 12 states and the District of Columbia have submitted their final plans to the Education Secretary, and plans from three more states are close to submission by early May pending approval from their state governor. However, at least 30 state plans are slated for the September due date. This means that the majority of the states still have time to prepare and finalize initial plans according to the new consolidated template issued by Education Secretary DeVos on March 13th, but states can also continue to use the template issued by the previous administration as long as the plan includes a crosswalk. States also have the option to submit individual applications for each program instead of using the consolidated state plan. Moreover, states aiming for the fall have an opportunity to gather stakeholder input while mapping out priorities and strategies to develop localized solutions--although stakeholder engagement is no longer a legislative requirement.
DeVos’ letter to the Chief State School Officers gives insight into the philosophy and direction of the Education Department:
The streamlined State plan template provides flexibility for State and local education leaders to do what is best for children, while also maintaining essential protections for subgroups of students, including economically disadvantaged students, students with disabilities and English learners. Each State plan will provide parents with quality, transparent information about how the ESEA, as amended by the ESSA, will be implemented in their State so that all children can reach their full potential. Parents may use this information to help choose the right educational environment for their child and to help their schools and their educational programs grow and improve.
Additionally, states might see some federal decisions finalized by the time that they submit their plans, namely, negotiations for the remainder of the 2017 fiscal year as well as the budget proposed by the Administration for 2018.
ESSA Overturned by Congress
Early on in March, the Senate used the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to overturn regulations in ESSA that were supposed to take effect in the upcoming 2017-2018 school year. In short, ESSA, which is an amended version of ESEA (1965), still remains, but what the Congressional repeal did do was reduce the role of the federal government in enforcing the law while pulling back the accountability rules that were established by the previous administration.
Here are some highlights:
- The federal government no longer mandates a prescribed model of school accountability systems. This means that states decide on how to evaluate schools, and states decide on how they will hold accountable the schools that meet state-instituted targets.
- States have greater flexibility on how they distribute funds to help local schools improve such as distributing grants on a competitive basis or by formula.
- The law requires states to evaluate low-income and minority students’ access to effective teachers in local schools, but the federal government has less say in how states report teacher equity in the state plan.
- States must still work with local schools to prevent bullying and harassment.
Educational Funding for ESSA Programs
Fiscal Year 2017 Under Negotiation
On April 28, Congress voted to allow for one more week to decide on the budget for the remainder of the 2017 fiscal year which ends on September 30, 2017. To date, Congress has been operating on a Continuing Resolution. That means that educational spending during the 2017 has been at the 2016 fiscal year amount. At the time that this article is being written, Congress is negotiating a budget deal that could be approved this week. Here are the negotiated budget amounts by TITLE:
TITLE I will increase by $100 million in addition to the $450 million shifted over from the old School Improvement Grant under NCLB. The 2017 fiscal year budget deal does not include the federal school choice program included in the 2018 budget proposed by the Administration.
TITLE II Grant monies for professional development will be reduced to $2.1 billion, a reduction of $294 million, for the remainder of the 2017 fiscal year. The Administration had originally aimed to cut these funds in half.
TITLE IV The TITLE IV Part A Student Support and Academic Enrichment block grant will be provided $400 million. The funding amount is much lower than the original $1.6 billion intended under ESSA. States will distribute grants on a competitive basis. Two out of three spending categories under the SSAE Grant remain the same: 20% of funds must go toward Safe and Healthy Students, and 20% of funds must go to Well-Rounded Education. However, up to 25% of funds can now go toward the purchase of technology infrastructure which was previously capped at 15%. This increase would not only serve the purpose of providing students with iPads or computers, but for all technology-related spending including teacher training, high-speed Internet access, and the purchase of platforms for teaching and learning as well as technologies that enable schools and districts carry out the requirements in state plans.(See TITLE V)
TITLE IV Part B, 21st Community Leaning Centers, the grant that funds after-school enrichment programs, will get a small increase of $25 million with the total approved amount of approximately $1.2 billion.
Overall, the U.S. Department of Education will decrease K-12 spending by $60 million for the remainder of the 2017 fiscal year to $71.6 billion. This includes both mandatory and discretionary spending.
Administration Proposes Budget for the Fiscal Year 2018
As for the 2018 fiscal year, the Administration proposed to cut the Education Department’s budget by $9 billion including the $2.25 billion Title II “Supporting Effective Instruction,” the state grant that helps states and districts hire and train teachers through professional development as well as the $1 billion Title IV “21st Century Community Learning Centers” program that funds after-school and extended learning programs. The proposal, if approved by Congress, would go into effect on October 1st which is the beginning of the federal fiscal year. The changes would impact the 2018-2019 school year.
DeVos, B. March 13, 2017. Key Policy Letters Signed by the Education Secretary or Deputy Secretary. U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from: https://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/guid/secletter/170313.html
FY2017 Omnibus Appropriations Act. Division H: Labor, Health and Human Services, Education. (pp.20-23) Retrieved from: http://democrats.appropriations.house.gov/sites/democrats.appropriations.house.gov/files/wysiwyg_uploaded/FY17%20Omnibus%20Summary.pdf
Ujifusa, A. May 1, 2017. Budget Deal for 2017 Includes Increases for Title I, Special Education. Retrieved from: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/campaign-k-12/2017/05/budget_deal_2017_title_I_special_education_spending.html
United States Office of Management and Budget. March 13, 2017. America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again. Education (pp. 23-24). Retrieved from: https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/whitehouse.gov/files/omb/budget/fy2018/2018_blueprint.pdf
Congress. Division H-Departments of Labor, Health and Human Service, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2017. (pp.48-54) Retrieved from: https://rules.house.gov/sites/republicans.rules.house.gov/files/115/OMNI/DIVISION%20H-%20LABORHHS%20SOM%20OCR%20FY17.pdf
Klein, A. April 25, 2017. Trump issues executive order calling for local control of K-12. EdWeek. Retreived from:http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/campaign-k-12/2017/04/trump_executive_order_local_control_education.html?_ga=1.38515619.1613411301.1493165958
Raphael, T.J. March 14, 2017. President Trump, how does your administration plan to officially change the Every Student Succeeds Act? PRI. Retrieved from:https://www.pri.org/stories/2017-03-14/president-trump-how-does-your-administration-plan-officially-change-every-student