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Betsy DeVos Releases Proposed Guidance on School Spending


U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has released proposed guidance to schools about a provision of the Every Student Succeeds Act that prohibits schools from cutting state and local money from education and simply filling the hole with federal funding. 

DeVos released the proposed nonregulatory guidance on Friday. Among other things, it clearly states that districts do not need to ensure that there is equal per-pupil spending between Title I schools (those with relatively high shares of low-income students) and non-Title I schools.

After ESSA passed in 2015, the Obama administration proposed regulations that would have required spending at Title I schools to be at least equal to that of the non-Title I schools. But the idea got a torrent of criticism from state and local school officials and others, although civil rights advocates in particular defended the proposal. Those regulations were never finalized before the Trump administration took over.

In addition, the new proposed guidance states that districts do not have to make their method for ensuring federal dollars don't replace state and local money easily accessible to the public—specifically, the district doesn't have to post it on its website. And it states that districts can't simply use per-pupil spending data to show compliance with "supplement-not-supplant." (The guidance does not impose new legal requirements on schools, so it is non-regulatory.) 

Broadly speaking, DeVos has taken a light touch when it comes to monitoring how ESSA is playing out in states. Indeed, the guidance states that the U.S. Department of Education can't prescribe any specific methodology for ensuring federal dollars don't supplant other funding to schools. 

There's a 30-day window for the public to comment on the proposal. Comments can be sent to: [email protected]

Ultimately (and perhaps ironically) DeVos' proposed guidance is pretty similar to spending guidance for Title I schools that the Obama administration proposed in the summer of 2015, said Nora Gordon, an associate professor at Georgetown University who studies school finance. She also said it was notable that the methodology for this part of ESSA doesn't have to be on a school district's website. 

Back in June, we wrote that the Trump administration was considering releasing guidance on what's known as "supplement-not-supplant." 

Read the proposed guidance document below:

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