Your Education Road Map

Politics K-12®

ESSA. Congress. State chiefs. School spending. Elections. Education Week reporters keep watch on education policy and politics in the nation’s capital and in the states. Read more from this blog.


More Than School Safety: What the Huge Hike for ESSA’s Block Grant Means

By Alyson Klein — March 22, 2018 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

As part of a massive new spending bill, lawmakers are poised to provide $1.1 billion in aid that congressional aides say will help boost school safety and mental-health resources in the wake of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., last month.

The money is intended “to expand school-based mental health services and supports; for bullying prevention; and for professional development for personnel in crisis management and school-based violence prevention strategies,” according to a House fact sheet.

But the increase isn’t just good news for school safety and counseling programs. It also being cheered by everyone from advocates for music education to fans of dual enrollment programs.

The money would go to a relatively new program and very broad grant program, the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants, better known as Title IV of the Every Student Succeeds Act. Title IV received $400 million in fiscal year 2017 (or the 2017-18 school year).

This proposed increase would mean the program would get nearly three times as much money as it is receiving currently, and would make Title IV one of the largest federal K-12 programs.

Districts can use the money for safety and counseling programs, to be sure. But they can also use it for a broad array of other things: Advanced Placement course fees, computer science initiatives, dance programs, technology, physical education, music class, drug education programs to combat the opioid epidemic, and much, much more.

“We’ve tried to say this is not just a school safety” fund, said Kelly Vaillancourt Strobach, the director of government relations at the National Association of School Psychologists. “We would love for districts to invest as much as possible in counseling. We also recognize and value the importance of a well-rounded education.”

Title IV was created when Congress combined a bunch of smaller programs—including one targeted at just school counseling—into what was supposed to be a big, flexible funding stream.

In addition, ESSA allows districts to transfer all of their Title IV money into Title II, which funds educator development. And it’s possible many will take that option. In fact, the state of Hawaii, which includes just one statewide school district, opted to do that this school year. (The new spending bill flat-funds Title II at $2.1 billion.)

There’s no way to know how much money will go to school safety or mental health, as opposed to a wide range of other priorities, experts say. Districts that get more than $30,000 must do an examination to figure out what their needs are.

“It’s hard to figure out how districts might spend the money because for any district that gets at least $30,000, they have to tailor their spending to their specific needs. And needs are going to vary from district to district,” said Sheara Krvaric, a partner at the Federal Education Group, a law and consulting firm that works on education funding issues. “It’s sort of difficult to predict where the spending might fall out.”

With Title IV receiving $400 million, many districts have gotten just $10,000, and school leaders have often decided that it’s easier just to transfer that money to Title II than to figure out another use of it.

Advocates are welcoming the larger grants. But they do come with more strings. A district that gets a grant of more than $30,000 under Title IV must use 20 percent of its funding on at least one activity that helps students become well-rounded, and another 20 percent on at least one activity that helps kids be safe and healthy.

That means not all of the money could go to school safety or mental health, even if districts wanted to spend it that way.

The spending bill hasn’t made it over the legislative finish line, but at least one school leader already has ideas on how to use the new money.

Dr. Kristi Sandvik, superintendent of the Buckeye Elementary District in Arizona, not far from Phoenix, got $18,000 from Title IV this school year, which she is using for AVID, a college-readiness program. But she has some thoughts about what she’d do if that grant were nearly tripled. She’d love to put it towards mental health services for her 5,200-student district.

Eighty percent of the children in Buckeye qualify for free- and reduced-price lunch and a hefty number are in foster care. Kids in poverty have unique emotional needs, Sandvik said, and she’d like to do more to help them. She’d like to consider using the money to help hire a social worker, or create an afterschool program serving kids who need behavioral support.

The increase for Title IV isn’t the only resource in the legislation for school safety and mental health.

The bill also includes a $22 million increase for the Department of Education to help improve school climates and prevent violence, and a $25 million increase Department of Health and Human Services program that provide mental health support to schools and school age children, as well as other resources. More here.

Image: Getty Images

Follow us on Twitter at @PoliticsK12.

Commenting has been disabled on effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Evaluating Equity to Drive District-Wide Action this School Year
Educational leaders are charged with ensuring all students receive equitable access to a high-quality education. Yet equity is more than an action. It is a lens through which we continuously review instructional practices and student
Content provided by BetterLesson
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attendance Awareness Month: The Research Behind Effective Interventions
More than a year has passed since American schools were abruptly closed to halt the spread of COVID-19. Many children have been out of regular school for most, or even all, of that time. Some
Content provided by AllHere

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Schools Get the Brunt of Latest COVID Wave in South Carolina
In the past few weeks, South Carolina has set records for COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases have approached peak levels of last winter.
4 min read
Two Camden Elementary School students in masks listen as South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster talks about steps the school is taking to fight COVID-19, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Camden, S.C. McMaster has adamantly and repeatedly come out against requiring masks in schools even as the average number of daily COVID-19 cases in the state has risen since early June. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
Education More States Are Requiring Schools to Teach Native American History and Culture
Advocates say their efforts have gained some momentum with the nation’s reckoning over racial injustice since the killing of George Floyd.
3 min read
A dancer participates in an intertribal dance at Schemitzun on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Mashantucket, Conn., Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. Connecticut and a handful of other states have recently decided to mandate students be taught about Native American culture and history. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP