Advocacy groups in favor of computer science education, college preparation, arts education, health and safety programs, counseling programs, and much, more, more have found common cause in trying to persuade Congress to provide as much money as possible for the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants. That’s another name for the brand-new block grant included in the Every Student Succeeds Act. (Read a recent letter on the issue here.)
And it seems that members of Congress who wrote ESSA agree. Last month, the law’s lead authors in the House—Reps. John Kline, R-Minn., the chairman of the House education committee, and Bobby Scott, the top Democrat—sent a letter to lawmakers who oversee K-12 spending asking for full funding ($1.6 billion or more) for the program. You can read the letter here.
Over on the other side of the Capitol, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. and the chairman of the Senate education committee, has also made it clear the block grant is a priority.
Some background: The Obama administration asked for $500 million for the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants in its fiscal 2017 budget request. That’s more than all of the programs included in the fund are getting right now, but still not nearly as much as the $1.6 billion lawmakers recommended in ESSA.
The administration also wants to make the funding competitive within states, while the law envisions it as a formula program.
The problem, of course, is that there isn’t a lot spare cash lying around this budget year. Anything considerably less than $1.6 billion isn’t going to make much of a difference if it’s spread to every district. More here.
Kline and Scott had other asks in their letter, all of which reflect ESSA’s bipartisan roots. They say they’d like to see the committee provide as much money for Title I as it is getting now, plus as much money as the School Improvement Grant program (which ESSA eliminated) was getting, plus a small increase. (That seems to be more than the Obama administration wanted for Title I.)
The letter also asks for funding to help the Preschool Development Grant program transition from the Education Department—where it has lived up until now—to the Department of Health and Human Services, where it will live once ESSA kicks in fully, in the 2017-18 school year.
Kline hadn’t really wanted to include the new preschool program in ESSA at all. But he compromised, as long as the program was moved to HHS, which deals with other early childhood programs, such as Head Start.
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