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Republican Flexibility Bill Robs Students
House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline has introduced his third in a series of five bills intended as part of the Elementary and Secondary Act (ESEA) reauthorization package. The latest bill opens the door to raids on resources intended for — and desperately needed by — some of our nation’s most vulnerable students.
If enacted, The State and Local Funding Flexibility Act could undermine the efforts of educators to boost the achievement of fragile students. It also would upend the traditional and critical role the federal government plays of providing extra funds to support the education of low-income students, English-language learners, migrants, and neglected children.
By allowing districts to move federal funds targeted for specific groups of students away from those students, the new bill effectively turns ESEA funding into a block grant. It would give districts permission to pull Title I money out of high-poverty schools and spend it on programs that might only minimally — or never — benefit the students for whom Congress intended the funds.
As appalling as that sounds, Chairman Kline made it clear, in his recent appearance on Bill Bennett’s radio show, that this is exactly the bill’s intent: “There are segments of the school population that the federal government has stepped in over the years to provide funding to address a specific problem — English language learners, poor kids — and they feel like the federal government needs to keep control, keep their hands on the reins of the money going to those specific kids. … My point, and what the superintendents will tell you and tell me, is, ‘Look, we need, for example, to upgrade computers across the whole school and [those funds] will help all the kids. I don’t have the money to do that and I need it, I got money over here for, say, English-anguage learners.’”
The long history of school districts shortchanging English-language learners, low-income students, migrant and neglected students is precisely why the federal government established Title I. To now allow school districts to, on a whim, raid these funds for other purposes would be an enormous step backward, not only for these students, but for the nation as a whole.