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Trump Ed. Dept. Gives States, Districts Extra Time on ESSA Financial Transparency Requirement

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U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and her team are giving states and districts an extra year to comply with new financial transparency requirements in the Every Student Succeeds that are aimed at shining a light on how much schools spend on each student. And at least one key civil rights group is unhappy about the delay. 

ESSA calls for states to report per-pupil expenditures for all their schools on school report cards for the first time beginning in the 2017-18 school year. The requirement was intended in part to help local policymakers—and the public—figure out if there are significant spending disparities between schools that serve high percentages of poor kids and other schools, and whether schools that lag behind in student achievement are getting as much money as more successful schools.

When ESSA passed, civil rights advocates were excited about the new transparency around per-pupil spending. But school superintendents and state leaders warned that providing that sort of detailed data on such a tight timeline could be a tough lift. The Education Department is giving states until the 2018-19 school year to begin putting the per-pupil expenditure information on their report cards. 

Jason Botel, who is serving as the acting assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, told state chiefs in a June 28 letter that, if they're ready to start including the information sooner, they should go ahead and do so in the 2017-18 school year. States that aren't should instead use their report cards to explain how they plan to meet the requirement next year, Botel said. 

Liz King, the director of education policy at The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, is not pleased with the new flexibility offered by the feds. 

"If we keep waiting until states and districts have the capacity before we require them to acquire that capacity, we will be waiting forever," King said in an email. "Unfair funding is so foundational to so many other challenges in education—we can't just continue to ignore the problem."

She noted that states and districts have already been required to provide per-pupil expenditure data under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and for inclusion in data collected by the Office for Civil Rights. 

"This requirement is one of the most important levers we have in ESSA to make progress on the pernicious problem of resource inequities," King said.

Want more background on the per pupil expenditure requirement and what it takes to comply with it? Check out this great story by my colleague Daarel Burnette II. Also check out this breakdown of how states decided to tackle the new requirement in their ESSA plans, which were written before the deadline was extended. 

And if you want more on ESSA itself, we've got this video: 


Video: ESSA Explained in 3 Minutes


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