Appropriations Delays Mean Title I Increases Still Up in the Air
Julia Martin, Esquire
Back in the summer of 2021, States and districts were excited by the prospect of broad increases to education funding – including to Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Early drafts, and a bill passed by the House of Representatives, contained substantial increases to proposed funding for programs like IDEA and Perkins, and nearly a doubling of money for Title I. But the start of the federal fiscal year came and went on October 1 without a massive influx of funds – so what happened?
Simply speaking, Congress ran out of time. In late September, rather than debate and pass a full appropriations bill, Congress punted to later this fall, passing a “continuing resolution.” This temporary extension, known as a “CR,” allows the Treasury to dole out appropriations at the previous fiscal year’s levels until a later date – in this case, December 3rd. In the meantime, Congress is debating two infrastructure bills, including one that was passed into law in early November. Those negotiations have proved more labor intensive than most had anticipated, pulling staff, floor time, and lawmakers away from regular work like appropriations. With negotiations on the second portion of the legislative package still not complete, it seems likely that Congress will once again need to delay deeper consideration of annual spending – likely into early next year.
One benefit of the delay? Congress can make spending decisions informed by what ends up in second infrastructure package, estimated to provide $1.75 trillion of spending over the next decade. Some of the programs which have appeared in drafts and may end up in the final version of the bill include money for child nutrition programs, pre-kindergarten and early childhood education subsidies, and teacher pipeline projects. Notably missing is an earlier proposal to spend $100 billion on school construction and repairs. If those items are cut to make room for other proposals in the final bill, lawmakers may fight more to get dramatic increases to need-based programs like Title I.
One more shift to watch out for, though: how funding is allocated among the four Title I formulas. After concerns about whether Title I formulas inappropriately disadvantage areas without a wealthy tax base, the bill proposed in the House would keep the “basic” and “concentrated” formulas the same but significantly increase funding to the “targeted” formula and the Education Finance Incentive Grants. This means that while all States’ Title I districts would see a lift from the increase, some could see a much more dramatic increase than others. This shift, combined with new population numbers coming out of the 2020 Census, could lead to confusion among districts and schools without proactive efforts to explain the reasoning behind the changes. Those changes in spending would be implemented with the funding that goes out to States next July. Look for more news on this topic in early 2022.
Basic grants: provide funds to LEAs in which the number of children counted in the formula (children who are at risk of failing to meet State standards) is at least 10, and exceeds 2 percent of an LEA's school-age population. Concentration Grants: provide funds to LEAs that are eligible for Basic Grants and in which the number of formula children exceeds 6,500 or 15 percent of an LEA’s total school-age population. Targeted Grants: are based on the same data used for Basic and Concentration Grants except that the data are weighted so that LEAs with higher numbers or higher percentages of children receive more funds. Education Finance Incentive Grants (EFIG) distribute funds to States based on factors that measure: (1) a State's effort to provide financial support for education compared to its relative wealth as measured by its per capita income; and (2) the degree to which education expenditures among LEAs within the State are equalized.