The Biden administration wants school districts to show they are treating their schools with high funding and staffing needs fairly, as part of a proposed requirement related to the latest federal COVID-19 relief plan.
The proposal of the US Department of Education would require states to release information on how each eligible school district protects these schools from disproportionate cuts over the next several years, as a condition of receiving funding as part of the US bailout, which President Joe Biden has promulgated last March.
The proposed requirement would advance the ministry’s goal of “ensuring that schools and [districts] serving large proportions of historically underserved student groups… receive a fair share of public and local funds as the nation continues to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our education system, ”said the department in a federal register on Tuesday. opinion.
If adopted, this requirement could provide useful data for researchers and policymakers seeking to understand the impact of the US bailout and trends in school funding over the next several years. But the value of the information could also be hampered by confusion and a fast approaching deadline.
What is the “fairness maintenance” requirement for?
The bailout’s “keep equity” requirement is essentially designed to prevent poorer schools from bearing the brunt of state and local funding cuts. It is also designed to prevent such disproportionate staff cuts. The provision applies to district public funding as well as how districts distribute funding to each of their schools.
Supporters of the requirement say it would help stop a repeat of what happened after the Great Recession about a dozen years ago, when disadvantaged students were often the hardest hit by state funding cuts. and local compared to their relatively wealthy peers.
‘Public dissemination of data and information on how each [district] in the state maintains equity is an important accountability tool for [states] and the ministry ”, also indicated the opinion of the Ministry of Education.
Yet skeptics have said, among other things, that maintaining the fairness requirement in the US bailout places a new burden on schools that focus too much on finances and not enough on student progress or achievement. schools.
It remains to be seen to what extent cuts in education funding will emerge as a widespread and serious problem in the years to come, given the increase in federal K-12 aid during the pandemic that led to nearly $ 200 billion in direct funding for states and local communities. education agencies.
More information on maintaining equity can be found here.
The department has previously released state-level data related to maintaining fairness, including information that States use as a benchmark.
In an August letter With principals of public schools providing additional information on the matter, the department estimated that 70 percent of school districts would be exempt from the equity maintenance requirement because they enroll fewer than 1,000 students. But the agency also noted that collectively, these districts educate just 15 percent of the country’s students.
The law also allows districts to obtain an exemption if there are “exceptional or uncontrollable” circumstances.
What the requirement would do
Under the proposed requirement, states would have to post this information about each of their districts by December 31 of each applicable school year on their websites “in a place accessible to parents and families.” The data should include:
- If a school district is exempt from the fairness maintenance requirement;
- If a district is not exempt, which schools are identified as “highly poor” and therefore protected by maintaining equity requirements;
- Which schools, if any, are exempt from these requirements?
- Funding per student for schools identified as very poor in fiscal years 2021, 2022 and 2023;
- Funding per pupil for all schools during these exercises;
- Levels per pupil of full-time equivalent staff in high poverty schools; and
- Per pupil levels of such staff in all schools, among other requirements.
Marguerite Roza, director of the Edunomics Lab at Georgetown University, said she was concerned about the addition of new reporting requirements to states regarding school districts, especially as many states have struggled for years to comply with a requirement under the Every Student Succeeds Act to report student expenses on a school-by-school basis.
With education officials still trying to figure out how to keep the fairness requirement in the US bailout, Roza wrote in an email, “How the hell could they do it in under 3 month ? ”
The general idea behind maintaining fairness has been a public issue and a point of tension for several years.
In 2016, the Obama administration used the concept to try and implement requirements on how districts funded their schools with a large proportion of disadvantaged students compared to wealthier schools. In the end, this effort was unsuccessful.
Those interested in commenting on the Biden administration’s proposed requirement should submit their comments by November 4.