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What's Up With ESSA Block Grant Funding?

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Happy almost Thanksgiving, and welcome to the second installment of Answering Your ESSA Questions! 

But first: Do you have an ESSA question? Email us at [email protected] or [email protected]. Or tweet at us at @PoliticsK12.

Now, on to our next question, which deals with ESSA funding. It comes from Sarah Bodor, the director of policy & affiliate relations at the North American Association for Environmental Education.

Bodor wants to know: "What's the latest timeline for distribution of Title IVA funds to states? Are they able to receive funds as soon as their plans are approved? Do you have any sense of how many states will opt to administer those grants competitively, given the smaller appropriation?"

First off, what exactly is Title IV? And what does Boder mean by a "smaller appropriation"?

ESSA cut dozens of programs in the U.S. Department of Education and combined them into one giant block grant districts can use for everything from safety and health programs to arts education to Advanced Placement course fees. The program was supposed to get about $1.6 billion annually, but Congress only provided $400 million for fiscal 2017. To help districts get more bang for their buck, lawmakers gave states the option to compete out the funds. They could also choose to dole them out by formula, with the goal of giving each district at least $10,000.

So how are states distributing the funds? Back in August, we found that seven states—Indiana, Minnesota, New York, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, and Oklahoma—were planning to compete out the money. Since then, one more state, Utah, told the Bernstein Strategy Group and the Title IV Coalition that it will also compete out the dollars.

We also reported that Massachusetts was planning to use a hybrid approach. The Bay State will offer the money through a formula, but districts must apply to get the cash. Any unclaimed funds will then be doled out through a competition. And Hawaii, a state that only has one school district, is taking advantage of an option under ESSA to move its Title IV funding into Title II, which pays for teacher professional development and salaries. Given recent cuts to Title II, a lot of districts may choose to do the same thing.

States have until September 2018 to give out their Title IV funds, according to the coalition's report, which was released this week. Here's a handy chart from that report on where funding stands in most states:

Title IV coalition chart.PNG

So, thank you Sarah for the question! You can check out our previous answer on how much tests figure into school grades under ESSA here.


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