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White House Report Blasts House Republicans’ NCLB Rewrite

By Lauren Camera — February 13, 2015 3 min read
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The White House fired a warning shot across the bow of House Republicans Friday morning, releasing a report that blasts the funding levels and a provision that would change the way Title I dollars for low-income students can be used in their rewrite of the No Child Left Behind Act.

The House education committee cleared the measure on Wednesday along a party-line vote, and the chamber is set to pass the Republican overhaul of the law the week of Feb. 24.

The report criticizes the bill’s appropriation levels, which would lock in current funding through fiscal year 2021, capping spending for the next six years at $800 million lower than it was in fiscal 2012. The White House characterized that as “effectively locking in sequestration-era cuts for the rest of the decade.”

Indeed, the report shows that the 100 school districts facing the largest cuts in dollar terms face an average 15 percent cut, and some especially high-poverty school districts would see cuts as large as 74 percent.

Those funding levels, the report underscores, stand in stark contrast to the president’s fiscal 2016 budget request, which would provide an additional $2.7 billion for federal K-12 education programs, including an additional $1 billion for Title I alone.

The White House report especially dug into language in the House bill that would allow Title I money for low-income students to follow them to the public school of their choice, including charter schools. This, the White House said, is akin to taking “funding from the schools that need it most and giving it to some of the nation’s wealthiest districts.”

The Title I portability provision “would allow states to spread Title I funds thinly across the wealthiest districts, doing less good, while sending less funding to many districts that need it most” and “would undermine districts’ ability to allocate funds as they see fit and undermine the half-century mission of Title I to provide critical support to the schools and districts with the highest concentrations of poverty.”

As a result of the House bill’s Title I portability provision, the report found that:

  • 112 school districts serving approximately 33,600 students would see a Title I cut in excess of 50 percent.
  • The 100 school districts that face the most significant cuts would lose more than 15 percent of their current Title I funding, totaling nearly $570 million.
  • Students attending schools in districts with a concentration of poverty above 25 percent could lose $700 million in funding, while districts with low concentrations of poverty would gain $470 million.
  • Some of the poorest school districts in every state would see cuts as high as 74 percent.

School districts that stand to lose the most Title I funding under the House bill?

  • Los Angeles Unified School District stands to lose $81 million
  • Chicago Public School District 299 stands to lose $64 billion
  • Detroit City School District stands to lose $51 million
  • Philadelphia City School District stands to lose $45 million

The White House report also took issue with the bill’s elimination of maintenance of effort, which requires school districts and states to keep up their own spending at a certain level in order to tap federal dollars.

“There is no guarantee that state and local dollars historically dedicated to education will actually reach classrooms and teachers,” the White House report noted. “Instead, the House plan would let states cut their own education budgets, effectively redirecting federal education funds to unrelated projects like prisons or sports stadiums.”

The report also includes state-by-state breakdowns. You can check it out for yourself here.

UPDATE (3:30PM): House education committee Chairman John Kline, R-Minn., refuted the White House report. He said in an emailed statement that: “The White House is using scare tactics and budget gimmicks to kill K-12 education reform, because they know a new law will lead to less control in the hands of Washington bureaucrats and more control in the hands of parents and education leaders. This biased report is just further proof the president is out of touch with the priorities of our country.”