Obama Administration and ED Won't Finalize Controversial Regulation in ESSA

The Obama Administration and the United States Education Department (ED) are dropping an effort to adopt a final regulation under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) that would have required that federal funds must “supplement and not supplant” state and local funds.

The proposed regulation, which was opposed by Republicans, teachers’ unions and superintendents, would have required districts to collectively shift $800 million to Title I schools from non-Title I schools, or spend an additional $2.2 billion in state and local dollars on Title I schools, according to CNN.

The ED said Wednesday it is withdrawing the proposed regulation that could have significantly increased federal control over school-district budgets, because it “did not have time to publish a strong final regulation.”

The Ed Department had been rushing to finalize a regulation before Obama leaves office at noon Friday and Donald Trump becomes president. But even if the department had adopted the regulation by Trump’s inauguration, it would have faced strong opposition from Republicans in Congress, who could have overturned it with a majority vote and a presidential signature.

Republicans such as Sen. Lamar Alexander (TN), chairman of the Senate education committee and the original and primary sponsor of ESSA, as well as Representatives Virginia Foxx (NC – 5th District) and Todd Rokita (IN, 4th District), hailed the ED’s decision to drop the “supplement, not supplant” regulation.

“This proposal would have dictated from Washington how states and school districts should spend nearly all state and local tax dollars on schools in order to receive federal Title I dollars,” Alexander said in a statement. Title I is a federal program that provides roughly $15 billion a year to schools and districts with large numbers of low-income students.

However, civil rights advocates and some Democratic supporters expressed dismay over the ED’s withdrawn proposal.

“Of course we’re disappointed that we weren’t able to get all the way to a final regulation on this issue, but we always knew that time wasn’t on our side,” said Liz King of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights in an interview with Politico’s Morning Education. “The clock ran out here, but we’re not done fighting to ensure robust enforcement of the nation’s education and civil rights laws and justice for the nation’s students.”

Many supporters believed that the “supplement not supplant” regulation would have provided more technology funding for lower-income students. In an interview with THE Journal, Genevra Walters, superintendent of Illinois’ Kankakee School District, said “Title I funds are for technology first.”   

To learn more about the Ed Department’s original proposal, read this story in THE Journal, which also contains links to other sources.

About the Author

Richard Chang is associate editor of THE Journal. He can be reached at [email protected].