Over the summer, House Republicans — led by House Education Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) — released a bill that would have made it easier to cut funding for low-income and at-risk students. And as Center for American Progress Associate Director of Education Research Raegen Miller noted today, the GOP is at it again, aiming to water down Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (the current iteration of which is No Child Left Behind), which provides federal funding to high-poverty schools:
Rep. Kline’s bill would go a long way toward turning the law’s largest program, Title I — which provides federal funding for high-poverty elementary and secondary schools — into a block-grant program by dispensing with Title I’s “maintenance-of-effort” provision. Title I maintenance of effort requires that in a given year states and districts receiving Title I funds spend 90 percent of what they spent from nonfederal sources in the previous year. This ensures that states and school districts do not shortchange high-poverty schools by shifting federal funds toward other purposes.
Rep. Kline’s Student Success Act has other shortcomings, too, but the idea of dropping the maintenance-of-effort provision is particularly ill advised. It would be one more step advocated by House Republicans toward dismantling longstanding federal provisions that ensure equitable education for all of our children. House Republicans claim they are taking this action to help states cope with budget shortfalls and to restore states’ rights over education spending. But the results would harm our poorest children and squander federal taxpayer dollars to boot.
As Miller laid out, the arguments that the GOP use to push for dismantling Title I are essentially bunk. Essentially, the GOP wants to allow states to take money meant to aid the most disadvantaged students and slush it around into different areas, defeating the whole purpose of having Title I in the first place.
Schools around the country are already having to deal with the debilitating effects of budget cuts that followed the Great Recession. The last thing they need are fewer dollars going to the students who need them the most. But perhaps we should be thankful that the GOP has, for now, abandoned its effort to cut Title I outright, as it proposed doing last year.