The National School Boards Association (NSBA) has issued a report calling on the U.S. Senate to reconsider a provision in its new Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization bill that seeks to ensure school districts give equitable support to students in high-poverty schools.
The ESEA legislation would change the current method for determining how school districts allocate comparable resources to their Title I schools. Based on NSBA’s report, “The Challenges and Unintended Consequences of Using Expenditures to Determine Title I Comparability,” the provision in the Senate bill will not achieve its goal.
“NSBA supports the concept of ‘comparability’ and ensuring that students in Title I schools receive equitable services,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “However, the proposal for the Title I comparability provision would be burdensome for school districts and it could even unintentionally harm Title I schools and other schools that have high operational costs or special services.”
As a condition for receiving Title I funding, ESEA requires that school districts show they are providing comparable services from local funds to their Title I schools through measures such as teacher-student ratios. The purpose is to show that the federal money is used in addition to local resources for Title I schools. Under the Senate bill’s plan, school districts would have to take into account new factors, such as the cost of each teacher’s salary and benefits, and other expenses that are not tied to student learning, such as transportation.
NSBA’s report found that the plan could force local school districts to shift money away from Title I schools because the provision does not account for wide variances in expenses such as student transportation, the availability of social services or grant funding to some schools, or other building-related costs.
As part of the report, NSBA surveyed school officials on the comparability provision in the Senate bill from the last Congress. Nearly 300 Title I program administrators and school business officials and other school officials responded. These on-the-ground practitioners reported that the proposed requirement was too difficult to administer and contained too many variables to make valid expenditure comparisons between Title I and non-Title I schools.
NSBA’s report shows that the proposed methods in Senate’s 2011 bill and the bill introduced this week are flawed because of wide variances in teacher salaries and benefits as well as other expenses in a school district. For example, factors such as variances in teachers’ salaries, employer-paid heath premiums, matching pension contributions and experience do not necessarily correlate to teacher effectiveness.
While the new Senate provision does not require the involuntary transfer of teachers, the provision would still appear to cause the bookkeeping problems raised in NSBA’s report and could still result in teacher transfer issues.
The new Senate provision seeks to respond to NSBA’s concerns regarding how certain expenditures that are not relevant to student learning would be accounted. It would allow school districts to adopt a method based on education expenditures that is of an equal or higher standard. However, those alternatives must be developed before the reauthorization is enacted and approved by the U.S. Secretary of Education.
Michael A. Resnick, NSBA’s Associate Executive Director for Federal Advocacy and Public Policy noted, “That option simply passes the buck to the federal agency to define what would still be a difficult to administer expenditure-based comparability system and would still result in the various unintended consequences cited in our report. There are far better approaches to ensure that all Title I students are receiving effective teachers and adequate educational resources.”
NSBA’s report was praised by the AASA, The American Association of School Administrators.
“NSBA’s report clearly shows that Congress needs to reject this provision and focus on supporting local efforts that will add to the resources needed for education rather than spending resources on bookkeeping and other adjustments that really aren’t on target to reach the intended goal,” said Bruce Hunter, AASA’s Associate Executive Director for Advocacy, Policy and Communications.