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This Week’s ESSA News: Delay Sought on Florida Plan, Tracking Spending at the School Level, Biggest Challenges for Districts & More

By Ashley Inman Zanchelli | August 19, 2018

This update on the Every Student Succeeds Act and the education plans now being refined by state legislatures is produced in partnership with ESSA Essentials, a new series from the Collaborative for Student Success. It’s an offshoot of their ESSA Advance newsletter, which you can sign up for here! (See our recent ESSA updates from previous weeks right here.)

The Every Student Succeeds Act includes a provision that is often glossed over but has the potential to ignite important conversations about equity. The provision requires states to “start reporting to the public each school’s annual per-pupil spending amount,” Daarel Burnette II writes in Education Week. For the first time, per-pupil spending will be revealed at the school level, instead of just as a districtwide average, shining a light on spending decisions and allocations such as which schools have the more experienced — and, as a result, more expensive — teachers and “whether racial minorities and districts’ neediest children are receiving their fair (and necessary) share of tax dollars.”

Burnette explains that “to collect and report this data, a technically challenging and politically thorny process, has roiled the school finance community.” While state legislatures are eager to see how money is spent and whether it is spent well, Burnette reports that district officials have concerns that the large volume of information has the potential to be misinterpreted.

See below for more ESSA news.

1 Two civil rights groups ask DeVos to hold firm on Florida’s ESSA plan

Florida remains the only state that has yet to have its ESSA plan approved by the U.S. Department of Education, and UnidosUS and the Florida chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens want it to stay that way — at least for now. Corey Mitchell reports in Education Week that the two organizations issued a letter Aug. 10 “arguing that the current ESSA plan excludes ‘critical protections’ for English language learners, students with disabilities, nonwhite students, and students from low-income families.” In addition to “asking state Education Commissioner Pamela Stewart to take more time, and gather more public feedback, on the state plan,” the organizations want U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos “to hold firm and reject any revised proposal that doesn’t comply with the letter of the law,” Mitchell explains.

2 ESSA state Preschool Development Grants now open for applications

According to Linda Jacobson at Education Dive, states can now start applying for $250 million in Preschool Development Grants under ESSA to “expand access to and improve the coordination and quality of early childhood education programs for children from birth to age 5.” These grants, which are overseen by the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “represent the first time that the Elementary and Secondary Education Act has included funding specifically for early childhood, even though states have long been able to use Title I funds for preschool and other programs for young children,” Jacobson writes.

3 Most pressing ESSA challenges & questions for districts

With the school year fast approaching, Alyson Klein asks in Education Week what “the toughest part of the Every Student Succeeds Act for districts to get a handle on” is. To find out, she asked experts such as Noelle Ellerson Ng from The School Superintendents Association, Jeff Simering from the Council of the Great City Schools, and David DeSchryver from Whiteboard Advisors. Their answers ranged from concerns about promoting equitable funding and tackling challenges around test participation rates to confusion around Title IV (the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants) and ESSA not seeming like “a very big departure” from its predecessor, No Child Left Behind.

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