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Groups Urge Congress to Boost Funding for Disadvantaged Students in Budget

Several education advocacy groups are asking Congress to add more money to Title I, the formula-grant program earmarked for students from low-income backgrounds, than the amount included in President Barack Obama's proposed fiscal 2017 budget.

The groups, including the AASA (the School Administrators Association), the American Federation of Teachers, and the National Rural Education Association, say lawmakers should fund Title I at $450 million above the president's budget. That funding increase for the program will ensure that no school district gets less funding as districts implement the first year of the Every Student Succeeds Act, the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act signed by Obama in December, according to a letter sent by the groups on Tuesday.

Here's a portion of the letter:

"The success of ESSA, as a bill that returns significant responsibility and authority back to the state and local level, will rely on the success of state and local education agencies. State and local education agencies will invest effort and cost in implementing ESSA, and it is all but certain that local school districts will face cuts in Title I should they implement ESSA as written, at the funding levels as proposed."  

This issue may sound familiar. Earlier this month, we highlighted an analysis by the Congressional Research Service showing that districts in over 30 states could stand to lose some of their Title I funding under the president's budget. 

Obama's spending proposal for fiscal 2017 technically increases Title I spending by $450 million. But advocates note that ESSA also eliminated the $450 million federal School Improvement Grant program under Title I, and would fold that money into the overall Title I program. Therefore, some advocates say the president's budget proposal isn't actually a boost for Title I at all in that respect.

At best, the groups state in their Tuesday letter, the president's budget would result in a net $200 million loss for local allocations of Title I spending. Obama's budget, which faces a grim future before a Congress controlled by Republicans, proposes a $15.4 billion appropriation for Title I in fiscal 2017.

ESSA also suspended a requirement for the 2017-18 school year that districts be "held harmless" with respect to Title I funding. (That "held harmless" requirement was suspended in order to make room for a higher maximum set-aside of Title I funds states could use for school improvement activities from 4 percent to 7 percent of their Title I money.) And Obama's fiscal 2017 budget would largely go into effect for the 2017-18 school year, the first full year that ESSA will be in effect.

Read the full letter below: 


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