Initial Analysis & Response to Senate-Proposed Title I Formula Rewrite

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This blog post comes from AASA's Noelle Ellerson and Marty Strange, former policy director Rural School and Community Trust and former coordinator of the Formula Fairness Campaign involving over 20 organizations seeking more equity in the Title I formula.

Senator Burr has introduced an ESEA amendment that overhauls the Title I formula. The bill revamps the current formula structure, making six assumptions to revamp the current formulas into one singular formula.

Those changes are:

  • Funds available to states and LEAs are provided only through the EFIG formula, as opposed to providing funds through the four formulas in current statute.
  • Funds distributed through EFIG will use ‘formula child’ quintiles that have been updated to reflect roughly 20% of all children
  • Grants are calculated using the national average per pupil expenditure
  • The EFIG factor included in current law is NOT used in the calculation of the grant
  • Funding for Puerto Rico is capped at its estimated FY2015 share
  • All LEAs must have a formula child rate at or above 20% to benefit from the weights in the 4th and 5th quintiles of the number-weighting matrix 
  • Read the related CRS analysis/report as prepared by the Congressional Research Services (CRS).
This set of changes is different than the Title I formula fight AASA has championed on the House side. That bill—All Children Are Equal (ACE) Act—focuses on ensuring that Title I dollars are targeted based on concentration of poverty, not presence of poverty. It looks at allocations within states, touching only the EFIG and targeted formula, leaving basic and concentrated alone.

Here are the key takeaways from the proposed changes: 

  • It shifts money both between and within states. Some states win, some state lose, some districts win, some districts lose. Overall, about 600 districts lose all of their Title I funding. 9,000 lose something, and 4,600 gain. At the state level, 15 states (CT, IL, LA, ME, MD, MA, MI, NE, NJ, NY, OH, PA, VA, WV and WI) lose. Please see the attached one pager for the state-specific impact. We also have access to school-level runs.
  • The cost to revamp the Title I formula under this proposal while holding schools harmless is upwards of $970 million.
  • The bill shifts from state average per pupil expenditure to national per pupil expenditure. This is in large part what forces the shifting of dollars between states – away from high-spending states and toward low-spending states.
  • The bill preserves number weighting, which drives the shifting of dollars both between and within states. Larger districts in states that gain due to use of statewide per pupil expenditure gain mightily, even if they are low percentage poverty districts.  Larger districts that lose because they are in high-spending states lose less than smaller districts in the same states.
  • It updates the quintiles, setting enrollment breaks at the very levels where one-fifth of students are enrolled. Under this change, school districts reach the top enrollment bracket at 26,000 rather than the current 35,000. This becomes problematic only in the context of number weighting. It aggravates the effect of number weighting because very large districts have even more of their students weighted at the top weight.  Otherwise, it is simply adjusting quintiles to reflect student enrollment.
  • This proposal rewards inequitable and inadequate state funding formulas.
AASA does not endorse this bill as introduced. We applaud Senator Burr for his focus on updating and modernizing the Title I formula. We applaud his efforts to work to target dollars more closely to the neediest districts. All formula fights are tough, as there are winners and losers. The need for a revamped formula trends with times of fiscal limitation; scarce dollars have a way of highlighting formula inequities.  As such, we welcome the opportunity to explore the following changes to the Burr proposal:

  • Set a floor of national per pupil average, in terms of what a state can receive. Allow for variance above that amount to reflect (and not disproportionately punish) states where it truly costs more to educate students or where they have invested more significantly.
  • Eliminate number weighting. The continued presence of number weighting—and this is the core issue of our long-running work on ACE—is that it allows larger, less poor districts to receive a higher per-pupil allocation than their concentration of poverty would warrant. Smaller school districts (both rural and urban) struggle most under this. Their poverty level is higher, but the critically needed dollars they qualify for are usurped by larger, less poor districts that fill students in the upper brackets, where (under this bill!) the student can be weighed up to 6x the average!  
  • We recommend a study of this approach and that of ACE to see which elements of each proposal truly are most equitable and how those elements can be combined. This could be accomplished through a secondary amendment calling for a report.
  • We recommend that any Title I formula change has a multi-year implementation, especially when funding isn’t expected to increase. We would also explore the option of a hold harmless provision.

Other related resources:

AASA Executive Director: When it comes to kids, legislating by crisis is not leadership.

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AASA Executive Director Daniel Domenech penned this piece after recent ESEA momentum once again fell apart, leaving our nation's schools and the students they serve clamoring for an updated, current law. It is a strong complement to today's press event, where 10 national organizations (including AASA) came together to urge continued action on ESEA and for Congress to 'Put Kids First'.

Congress, as the legislative body for our representative democracy, is designed not to pass countless laws but rather, stop bad laws from passing. The current trend in legislating at the federal level has confused leadership with ‘legislating through crisis’ where final action is rife with politics, posturing and movement only when faced with stiff, absolute consequences or deadlines.


No Child Left Behind, the current authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) lacks an expiration or ‘must act by’ date, and is now nearly 8 years past due. Our nation’s K-7 graders have spent the entirety of their K-12 education experience under a broken, outdated federal law. Yet, no crisis. 


We write to express our deep disappointment and frustration with Congress’ seemingly willingness to displace and ignore our nation’s schools and the students they serve. This year alone, we have found serious ESEA reauthorization proposals bumped from floor consideration over cyber security, the trade deal and appropriations, among others. 


Our nation’s schools continue to open their doors and serve their students regardless of Congressional (in)activity. We are left to wonder what type of crisis it will take for ESEA and schools to warrant the type of consideration that it takes to complete reauthorization. 


We have heard and agree with the idea that education is the civil rights issue of this generation.  Education is an unparalleled lever out of poverty and continued inaction on ESEA means yet another missed opportunity to invest in and support the needs of the schools and the students that need it the most.


Perhaps more frustrating is the reality that we (advocates, educators, policy makers and parents) agree on far more than we disagree on. Yet it is that small portion that keeps ESEA from reaching the finish line. We cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and we must all remember that complete reauthorization—when done right—will involve compromise which, by definition, means everyone will be a little unhappy. Education policy and support for our schools and students has no room for ‘zero sum’, ‘my-way-or-the-highway’ policies. 


As AASA wrote in a joint statement with its 49 state affiliates, “…ESEA reauthorization…represents an opportunity to breathe new life into federal education policy, incorporating the latest research and actual experience to improve student outcomes and eliminate achievement gaps. Those efforts are under way….{and we} urge Congress to move forward with the very critical work of reauthorizing ESEA and providing all of the nation’s schools with workable federal education policy that supports state and local innovations. Our students want and deserve more.”


All 50 states and every congressional district have schools and students, meaning education and ESEA should be a broad, bipartisan priority, not a political football. Congress must turn away from its recent trend of making education and our students a 2nd tier priority, and use this opportunity to move forward in a deliberate manner to commit to supporting the success of every student, school and community.  Again, our students want and deserve more.


AASA Joins 9 National Organizations to Urge Senate Action on ESEA

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Earlier today, AASA joined nine other national organizations to urge Congress to 'Put Kids First' and to focus on ESEA reauthorization. AASA was joined by leaders from the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the Council of Chief State School Officers, the Association of School Business Officials International, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the National School Boards Association, the National PTA, and the National Association of State Boards of Education. 

Read the press release, which includes statements from each organization. You can follow a record of the event on Twitter, using the hashtag 'PutKidsFirst'.



UPDATED: AASA Joins Three National Organizations to Oppose House and Senate FY16 LHHS Bill

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This blog post has been updated to include links to the groups' letter to the Senate. 

AASA joined AESA, NREA and NREAC in a joint letter of opposition to the House FY16 LHHS appropriations bill. Read the full letter.  

UPDATED: The groups also collaborated on a letter to the Senate appropriations committee. The letter was virtually identical to the House letter, and is available here.

On behalf AASA, The School Superintendents Association, the Association of Educational Service Agencies, the National Rural Education Association, and the National Rural Education Advocacy Coalition, I write to express our strong and unified opposition to the Fiscal Year 2016 Labor-Health-Human Services-Education (LHHS) Appropriations bill as reported from subcommittee on June 16. 

Collectively, our groups represent superintendents, school system leaders, educational service agency leaders, and rural educators, including parents, teachers and administrators. We cannot support a bill like this one, based on sequester level caps, essentially freezing funding for non-defense discretionary programs, which include critical education funding. This bill eliminates 27 education programs, cuts funding to 10, increases funding for 21 programs, and freezes funding for 29 programs. In total, funding for K12 programs are cuts by $2.03 billion, an amount uncomfortably close to the deep cuts of sequester. 

We would normally applaud and welcome the proposed $502 million increase for IDEA (among others) as critical and well past-due. In the context of broader cuts and freezes that run deeper than any IDEA increase can cover, though, this is an appropriations bill focused on cutting funding to our nation’s schools and disinvesting in the future. We understand the importance of fiscal responsibility and have meaningfully engaged in conversations around spending cuts, restraint, revenues and more. There are two sides to responsibility, though, and cuts of this magnitude are deliberate and irresponsible.

It is imperative that Congress work collaboratively to identify a blend of revenue increases, spending cuts and mandatory program reform to replace sequester. Our groups have actively advocated against—and demonstrated the deep, damaging cuts stemming from—sequestration and its impact on our nation’s public schools, impacts which are only amplified by the cuts in this appropriations bill. 

The cuts within this bill harm our nation’s global competitiveness and economic future by completely undermining progress on improving student achievement, closing achievement gaps and increasing high school graduation and post-secondary education attendance. 

We urge you to VOTE NO on the FY16 LHHS Appropriations bill and to support negotiations that raise the caps on NDD spending so that LHHS programs can receive funding increases that invest in our nation’s schools and students, rather than undermining their future.

ICYMI: AASA Exec Dir Stmt on Proposed House Funding Levels

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Daniel A. Domenech, the executive director of AASA, The School Superintendents Association, issued the following statement  regarding the draft fiscal year 2016 Labor, Health and Human Services (LHHS) funding bill.  

“The House released an LHHS appropriations bill, detailing proposed funding levels for federal health, education, and labor programs, among others. While this represents the first time in a handful of years that the committee has provided this level of detail in a public manner, we are deeply disappointed in the Committee—and the House in general—for continuing to deeply undermine the work of the nation’s schools by allocating deep, damaging cuts.

“We would normally applaud and welcome the proposed $502 million increase for IDEA (among others) as critical and well past-due. In the context of broader cuts and freezes that run deeper than any IDEA increase can cover, though, this is an appropriations bill focused on cutting funding to our nation’s schools and disinvesting in the future. We understand the importance of fiscal responsibility and have meaningfully engaged in conversations around spending cuts, restraint, revenues and more. There are two sides to responsibility, though, and cuts of this magnitude are deliberate and irresponsible.”

AASA Joins Partners to Push Congress on ESEA Reauthorization

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AASA is happy to participate in a media event tomorrow. Ten national education groups, representing educators, principals, school boards, superintendents, chief state school officers, parents and PTAs, and school business officials, will come together Tuesday to urge the U.S. Senate to bring the Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization bill to the floor for a vote.

The Senate reauthorization bill, the Every Child Achieves Act, passed unanimously through the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on April 16. No date has been set for debate and vote by the full Senate. ESEA has been expired since 2007.

The event will be held tomorrow, Tuesday, June 23 at 11:00 ET. Join us in person at the National Press Club Zenger Room, 529 14th St. NW, 13th floor or follow us on Twitter: and



AASA Sends Letter of Support for the Healthy School Meals Flexibility Act

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The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, passed in 2010, covers the school lunch program as well as school breakfast, summer meals and more. The law as written and through related regulations has strict nutrition rules that are difficult to meet for school districts around the country. 

In response to these burdensome restrictions, Senators Hoeven (SD) and King (ME) and Representative Davis (IL) introduced the Healthy School Meals Flexibility Act in both the Senate and the House. These companion bills permanently cut the whole grain requirement from 100 percent to 50 percent, the original USDA requirement. They would also keep the sodium requirement at Target 1 levels, eliminating increased sodium restrictions scheduled to go into effect in 2017 and 2022.

Read AASA's letter of support here and here.