Historic Changes to Title IX and School Safety Funding: How 2022 Shaped K-12 Policy

By Libby Stanford — December 29, 2022 6 min read
Revelers march down Fifth Avenue during the annual NYC Pride March, Sunday, June 26, 2022, in New York.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Major changes to Title IX, a laser focus on school safety, and a crackdown on for-profit charter schools: 2022 was a year full of major developments in K-12 education policy.

With a looming midterm election, politicians and lawmakers at the federal level spent the year working to win over voters who care about K-12 education issues.

For Democrats and the Biden administration, that meant enforcing policies that protected public school funding and reinforced rights for LGBTQ students. In states with majority Republican lawmakers, that meant supporting parents’ rights policies, lobbying to ban specific books, and placing more scrutiny over social studies curricula.

But one of the biggest issues this year was school safety. The May 24 mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, reignited a debate over gun laws and school safety, leading Congress to pass the first major gun-safety legislation in 30 years.

This past year also saw schools continue to struggle with the lasting impacts of the pandemic, pushing policymakers to pay attention to issues such as teacher pay, school meals, and school staffing shortages.

Here are the big policy developments in 2022 that could hint at what’s to come in 2023.

Bipartisan Safer Communities Act

Protesters take to the streets of downtown Detroit on June 11, 2022, during the March For Our Lives rally.

President Joe Biden signed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act in June following the Uvalde shooting in which a gunman killed 19 students and two teachers. The legislation is the first major gun-safety law to pass Congress in three decades.

Education Week counted more than 50 school shootings that resulted in injuries or deaths in 2022—a number that’s higher than any calendar year since Education Week began tracking school shootings in 2018.

The new federal gun-safety law creates an “enhanced review process” for gun buyers who are 21 or younger and provides funding for states to enact “red-flag laws,” which allow judges to limit a person’s access to guns if they are considered a threat to themselves or others. It also provides $1 billion to help schoolsaddressschool social worker and psychologist shortages.

Proposed changes to Title IX

Sivan Kotler-Berkowitz, 17, a transgender student-athlete, plays soccer with his brother, Lev, at a Massachusetts park on Sept. 3, 2022.

In June, the U.S. Department of Education announced proposed changes to Title IX, the federal sex-discrimination law, that would mean explicit protections for LGBTQ students.

While policy experts and judges have long interpreted Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 to protect students from discrimination based on their gender identity or sexuality, the proposed rules would make those interpretations explicit, a decision LGBTQ advocates say is much needed after a year in which many discriminatory state laws were passed.

The proposed changes, which brought in over 200,000 public comments and are expected to be finalized in the coming year, also would roll back Trump-era policies that make it more difficult for sexual assault and harassment victims to receive justice. The changes also would add more robust protections for pregnant and parenting students—including a requirement that schools provide break times and private spaces for lactating mothers.

However, the proposed changes do not say anything about whether transgender students have a right to participate in sports aligned with their gender identity. The Education Department plans to conduct a separate rule-making process about that issue in the coming year.

Universal free school meals come to an end

Carl Hall, 8, drinks apple juice he received as part of a free bagged breakfast at the Jefferson County Upper Elementary School on March 3, 2021 in Fayette, Miss.

For the first time in two and a half years, students had to pay for meals this fall if they didn’t qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. That’s because Congress chose not to include the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s pandemic-era meal waivers, which gave schools flexibility to serve meals to go and gave students access to free meals regardless of income, in Biden’s 2022 federal budget passed in March.

Facing pressure from school nutrition workers, who worried about staffing shortages and inflation, Congress passed the Keep Kids Fed Act in June, extending the USDA waivers that allow school cafeterias to provide breakfast and lunch to go and access to higher reimbursement rates for meals. The law didn’t extend the waiver that allowed all children to eat for free.

An effort to extend the universal free meals also failed to make it into Congress’ fiscal 2023 spending package, which passedDec. 23. But a handful of states—including California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, and Vermont—have elected to make universal free school meals a reality for all students, at least through this school year.

In states where that’s not happening, student school meal debts have been on the rise, and federal data have shown that schools are struggling to get eligible families to sign up for free and reduced-price meals.

Crackdown on for-profit charter schools

Students in Monica Farren’s 6th grade English class read outside during a poetry exercise at Albert Einstein Academy Charter Middle School in San Diego.

The Biden administration took a stance against for-profit charter school organizations after establishing new rules to the Charter School Program, a federal grant that funds charters in their first three years of operation.

The rules require new charter schools to complete a needs analysis to demonstrate a need for the school in the area and show how the school won’t negatively impact school desegregation efforts in the community. It also requires grant applicants to prove they aren’t under the control of a for-profit company and divulge if they have plans to contract with a for-profit education management organization.

Some states increased funding. Others scrutinized curriculum and teaching practices.

Marchers wave flags as they walk at the St. Pete Pier during a rally and march to protest against a bill dubbed by opponents as the "Don't Say Gay" bill Saturday, March 12, 2022, in St. Petersburg, Fla. Florida lawmakers have passed the bill, which forbids instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade. It now moves to the desk of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is expected to sign it into law.

State education policy varied widely in 2022, depending on political leanings.

Ballot measures that will provide more funding for K-12 schools passed in California, Colorado, Idaho, Massachusetts, and New Mexico. Those measures will lead, for instance, to universal prekindergarten in New Mexico, $1 billion for arts education in California, and universal free meals for students in Colorado.

Meanwhile, in over a dozen states, educators felt the impact of so-called parents’ rights measures and anti-critical race theory laws that limit how they can teach about issues like race, gender identity, and sexuality. In Oklahoma, two school districts received downgraded accreditations for violating laws that restrict conversations about race and racism. And in Florida, teacherswereworried about losing their licenses after an amendment to the state’s Parental Rights in Education law said teachers’ licenses could be revoked if they teach students in K-3 about gender identity or sexual orientation.

COVID-19 aid must be spent by deadlines, federal officials emphasize

A used medical facemask hangs on a wood classroom desk in an empty classroom during the COVID-19 pandemic

School funding remained an area of focus for policymakers in 2022, especially as schools continued to spend $190 billion in COVID-19 relief funds.

Over the year, school leaderscalled on the Education Department to provide more flexibility in the timelines for spending the money, but federal officials remained steadfast in their messaging that the funds are meant to be used to help students in the immediate response to the pandemic.

Despite the lack of flexibility on the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, federal officials did manage to increase funding for K-12 schools ahead of the 2023 fiscal year. Congress approved$18.4 billion,an increase of $1.4 billion for the federal Title I program, which aims to direct more money to districts and schools with a large share of students from low-income families. Special education funding also jumped $2.5 billion over last year, totaling $15.5 billion, and 2023 funds to support English-learners received $890 million, an increase of $82 million over 2022.


Student Well-Being K-12 Essentials Forum Boosting Student and Staff Mental Health: What Schools Can Do
Join this free virtual event based on recent reporting on student and staff mental health challenges and how schools have responded.
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.
Curriculum Webinar
Practical Methods for Integrating Computer Science into Core Curriculum
Dive into insights on integrating computer science into core curricula with expert tips and practical strategies to empower students at every grade level.
Content provided by Learning.com

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

Federal Biden Admin. Warns Schools to Protect Students From Antisemitism, Islamophobia
The U.S. Department of Education released a "Dear Colleague" letter reminding schools of their obligation to address discrimination.
3 min read
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in his office at the Department of Education on Sept. 20, 2023 in Washington.
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks during an interview in his office at the U.S. Department of Education on Sept. 20, 2023 in Washington.
Mark Schiefelbein/AP
Federal What Educators Should Know About Mike Johnson, New Speaker of the House
Johnson has supported restructuring federal education funding, as well as socially conservative policies that have become GOP priorities.
4 min read
House Speaker-elect Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., addresses members of Congress at the Capitol in Washington on Oct. 25, 2023. Republicans eagerly elected Johnson as House speaker on Wednesday, elevating a deeply conservative but lesser-known leader to the seat of U.S. power and ending for now the political chaos in their majority.
House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., addresses members of Congress at the Capitol in Washington on Oct. 25, 2023. Johnson has a supported a number of conservative Republican education priorities in his time in Congress.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Federal America's Children Don't Have a Federal Right to Education. Will That Ever Change?
An education scholar is launching a new research and advocacy institute to make the case for a federal right to education.
6 min read
Kimberly Robinson speaks at the kickoff event for the new Education Rights Institute at the University of Virginia School of Law in Charlottesville, Va., on Oct. 16, 2023.
Kimberly Robinson speaks at the kickoff event for the new Education Rights Institute at the University of Virginia School of Law in Charlottesville, Va., on Oct. 16, 2023.
Julia Davis, University of Virginia School of Law
Federal Q&A Miguel Cardona: There's No 'Magic Strategy' to Help Students Get Back on Track
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said he's focused on supporting schools on work they're already doing to help students achieve.
8 min read
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in his office at the Department of Education on Sept. 20, 2023 in Washington.
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in his office at the Department of Education on Sept. 20, 2023, in Washington. In an interview with Education Week, Cardona said "there hasn’t been another president in our lifetime that has spoken so much on providing dollars for education but also having education be central to the growth of this country."
Mark Schiefelbein/AP