Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

GOP To Districts: Spend Federal Money How You Want

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House education committee chair John Kline (R-Minn.) introduced the education spending proposal.

You know it’s serious when critics, including teachers unions, are panning a recently-proposed education bill as a blow to “civil rights.” But an interest group representing local school administrators calls the measure a “breath of fresh air.”

The State and Local Funding Flexibility Act, as introduced yesterday by House education committee chair John Kline (R-Minn.), would allow school districts and states to shuffle money they get from the federal government to programs where (as the idea goes) the money would be most needed.

Who doesn’t love a little flexibility? Well, the Obama administration for one. That could mean the bill, without a broader bipartisan compromise, might not even get out of the Senate.

Here’s the idea:  If the bill passed, local districts would be able to take money from eight federal programs under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (anything from Title I funds dedicated to educating “at-risk” students to Title III funds for ELL students) and move that money into thirteen other federal programs.

The bill’s biggest opponents — from from urban districts, to low-income student advocacy groups, to the NEA, whose representative spoke to Education Week’s Politics K-12 blog:

“We support flexibility, we just don’t think you need to threaten childrens’ civil rights in order to provide it,” said Mary Kusler, the union’s manager of federal advocacy.

But the American Association of School Administrators sent the education committee a letter supporting the legislation:

This approach to federal policy, based on trust and confidence in teachers, principals, superintendents and school boards, will result in smarter investment of dollars aimed at helping low income and minority students reach new educational heights… Your proposal, based on an inherent trust in educators and their commitment to doing what is right, its a breath of fresh air and represents a strong step forward.

For the record, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan came out against the bill, issuing a statement (discussed here at Politico) saying the bill “runs the risk of short changing students with the greatest needs.”


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