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ESEA Amendment Would Alter Teacher-Quality Allocations

A little-noticed amendment that the Senate Education Committee approved in its recent ESEA bill stands to have a major impact on how teacher-quality funds are distributed among states.

Bear with me, there's some wonky background here before we get to the juicy stuff. Every state and something like 90-odd percent of districts receive allocations through the federal Title II state teacher-quality grant program. It's a popular fund because states and districts can do practically whatever they want with it as long as it's teacher-quality related.

Formula grants like this one tend to have "hold harmless" provisions whereby every state is guaranteed a base allocation. Title II is no exception; no state gets less than they got under the two programs that preceded its creation in 2001. Additional funds are allocated by child poverty rates and population in the states.

The problem? Title II has been cut by about $400 million over the past few years, so the hold-harmless allotment makes up an increasing portion of the overall state allocations. Clearly, this disadvantages states that have grown in population or have increasingly high incidence of child poverty.

So, during the committee-amendment process, Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., introduced an amendment to yank out this language from the Harkin-Enzi reauthorization bill. It passed fairly comfortably.

(Small and less-populous states and territories would still get a minimum allocation under the change. Wipe away your tears, Sen. Enzi!)

Most states wouldn't see drastically different allocations, but removing the hold harmless does create some notable winners and losers. Here's a rundown of those states that stand to gain or lose $10 million or more under the proposed change:

WINNERS: Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina (surprise!), Texas.
LOSERS: Louisiana, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania.

Important caveat: These calculations assume Congress doesn't add additional funding to the Title II pot.

So far, this amendment doesn't seem to have garnered much attention. But you can bet your bottom dollar lawmakers from those less-favored states will be fixin' to get mad if this bill moves closer to passage.

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