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.

Education Funding

How Washington Could Help Schools Use Federal Money More Freely

By Andrew Ujifusa — December 16, 2019 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Federal education spending has far-reaching consequences beyond just the programs it supports—but a variety of factors lead schools to needlessly restrict ultimately use it.

That’s one main conclusion from a new report by Melissa Junge and Sheara Krvaric, two attorneys who consult with states and districts on school finance. In “How Confusion over Federal Rules Can Get in the Way of Smart School Spending,” published by the American Enterprise Institute earlier this month, Junge and Krvaric say many districts continue practices, such as limiting the use of Title I funding to reading and math instruction, that the U.S. Department of Education doesn’t actually require.

In addition, they write, states often add their own rules for spending federal money that can exacerbate this condition, and can cause schools to exercise unnecessary caution and to spend money in unsystematic, fragmented ways that don’t move the needle much.

“Helping local leaders recognize that federal requirements have a wide-ranging influence on all student services, not just those that are federally funded, and helping them better understand and more easily navigate federal compliance requirements could result in more effective spending and improved outcomes for students,” Jung and Krvaric write.

This issue has been percolating in Washington for some time. In 2015, for example, the Obama administration released guidance for Title I spending that emphasized the various ways educators could use that money on a schoolwide basis to expand learning time, to provide full-day kindergarten, and to adopt school climate interventions. The guidance also tried to dispel what it termed “misunderstandings” about Title I, such as the belief that it “may only be used to serve low-achieving students” or that “Title I may only be used to provide remedial instruction.”

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos released Title I guidance last June that she said “makes clear that a school district has significant flexibility in how it demonstrates compliance with the law.” Still, Junge and Krvaric say that districts must consider several rules around eligibility, reporting, and spending timelines for federal education funds.

So what can be done here? The two consultants have a few ideas. Below is a sample of them.

  • For the federal government: The feds should issue “clear guidance” with a minimum of technical jargon about the degree of freedom schools have over different pots of cash (although DeVos would likely argue she’s already at least tried to do this).This guidance should be written for all school personnel, not just those who administer federal programs, the authors say. They also say Congress could make “technical changes” to federal law to make things easier for schools, although even that relatively modest proposal could be very daunting in the current political environment.
  • For states: State education agencies should partner with districts who encounter barriers to what they see as effective school spending.
  • For districts: Districts could form coalitions to figure out effective ways to spend federal aid, and also look at federal rules for K-12 aid themselves instead of just accepting what states and other groups say about them.
  • For advocacy groups: When the situation calls for it, Junge and Krvaric say, these groups should help districts get a lawyer in their corner and be willing to fight for how they want to spend money.

Read the full report below:

Follow us on Twitter @PoliticsK12. And follow the Politics K-12 reporters @EvieBlad @Daarel and @AndrewUjifusa.

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.
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

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 Funding Reported Essay Are We Asking Schools to Do Too Much?
Schools are increasingly being saddled with new responsibilities. At what point do we decide they are being overwhelmed?
5 min read
Conceptual Illustration
Pep Montserrat for Education Week
Education Funding Interactive Look Up How Much COVID Relief Aid Your School District is Getting
The federal government gave schools more than $190 billion to help them recover from the pandemic. But the money was not distributed evenly.
2 min read
Education Funding Explainer Everything You Need to Know About Schools and COVID Relief Funds
How much did your district get in pandemic emergency aid? When must the money be spent? Is there more on the way? EdWeek has the answers.
11 min read
090221 Stimulus Masks AP BS
Dezirae Espinoza wears a face mask while holding a tube of cleaning wipes as she waits to enter Garden Place Elementary School in Denver for the first day of in-class learning since the start of the pandemic.
David Zalubowski/AP
Education Funding Why Dems' $82 Billion Proposal for School Buildings Still Isn't Enough
Two new reports highlight the severe disrepair the nation's school infrastructure is in and the crushing district debt the lack of federal and state investment has caused.
4 min read
Founded 55 years ago, Foust Elementary received its latest update 12-25 years ago for their HVAC units. If the school receives funds from the Guilford County Schools bond allocation, they will expand classrooms from the back of the building.
Community members in Guilford, N.C. last week protested the lack of new funding to improve the district's crumbling school facilities.
Abby Gibbs/News & Record via AP