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Federal Grants to Recruit Principals for High-Need Schools Get the Ax

UPDATED

While school leaders cheered that the federal budget President Trump signed includes more than $2 billion in federal dollars for Title II—the main funding vehicle that pays for professional development for teachers and principals—a relatively small grant program to recruit and train principals in high-needs schools got the ax.

Sparing Title II, which had been targeted for elimination by the Trump administration for the second year in a row, had been a big priority for school leaders.

But as Andrew Ujifusa noted on Politics K-12, while the $2 billion Title II program was saved from the chopping block, the School Leader Recruitment and Support Program, which was funded at $14.5 million in fiscal year 2017, was the only education program that the Trump administration singled out for elimination that was actually cut.

The School Leader Recruitment and Support Program provides grants that help states, universities, and districts work on initiatives to recruit, mentor, coach and support aspiring and sitting principals and assistant principals in high-need schools.

While principals, school leaders, and leadership advocacy groups found a lot to celebrate in the budget—including more money for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 21st Century Community Learning Centers, which funds after-school programs, and an increase in Title I, the main federal program for schools educating children in poverty—the elimination of the School Leader Recruitment and Support Program drew some concern.

The NYC Leadership Academy, which trains school leaders in high-needs districts, called the elimination of the program short-sighted and urged other leadership organizations to continue to push for the program to be funded in the next budget.

"Given that school leaders account for 25 percent of a school's impact on student learning, and that researchers have not found a case of a struggling school that turned around without a powerful leader, our young people are counting on it," Irma Zardoya, the president and chief executive director of the NYC Leadership Academy, said. 

New Leaders, a New York City-based leadership development program that trains principals and aspiring principals, was also critical of the cut. New Leaders argued that the SLRSP was the only federal program that was aimed at investing in "evidence-based, locally-driven strategies to strengthen school leadership in high-need schools."

"Failing to fund SLRSP in FY 2018 represents a significant step backward in our collective efforts to get a well-prepared, well-supported principal in every school," New Leaders said in a statement. "Further, it is a missed opportunity for the federal government to direct dollars toward school leadership programs and partnerships that would continue to help build an evidence base regarding what works in education and that promise a return for students, schools, and communities that far exceeds its initial, targeted investment."

The group said that it hoped the money would be restored in next year's budget and said that it will work with others to press Congress to restore the funding.

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