Supplement, Not Supplant: The Continuing Challenges of Getting Federal Education Dollars to The Intended Beneficiaries
The federal government’s role in American education greatly expanded with the 1965 passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Adopted as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s ”War on Poverty,” ESEA included a number of programs — the most substantial being Title I — that were designed to remedy the deep inequalities that troubled our nation’s schools. To accomplish this goal, these programs provided new, supplemental funds to the schools with the greatest concentrations of students living in poverty.
It soon became apparent, however, that some states and school districts had begun to shift money around, using Title I and other federal funds in place of the funds they normally provided. These practices had the effect of depriving the intended beneficiaries — students living in poverty — of the additional resources that they sesperately needed.
To prevent this budgetary sleight-of-hand, Congress wrote a “supplement-not-supplant” provision into the law, in an attempt to ensure that high-poverty schools received the necessary resources. Over the years, the U.S. Education Department (USED), which oversees Title I and other federal funding programs, modified and increasingly tightened the regulations to ensure that funds actually reached their intended targets. However, with the Trump-DeVos administration, the department issued new regulations that relaxed state and district requirements, upending Congressional intent and threatening the well-being of our neediest students.
As the 2020 presidential campaign season has begun, a number of candidates have published education platforms that would substantially increase federal education funds. Proposals include federal grants to increase teacher salaries and a four-fold increase in Title I funding, with the goal of establishing 25,000 community schools in high-poverty communities that would provide students and their families with a wide range of supports and services. Given that the governance of education remains a state responsibility under the U.S. Constitution, a number of these proposals raise new and complex challenges.
From a variety of perspectives, our panel addressed the question of what should be done, in law and in government regulation, to ensure that federal government funds are spent as intended.
Ary Amerikaner, Vice President for P-12 Policy, Practice, and Research, Education Trust
Bruce D. Baker, Professor, Department of Educational Theory, Policy, and Administration, Graduate School of Education, Rutgers University
Marshall S. Smith, Former Under Secretary of Education
Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif), Member, House Education and Labor Committee.