This Week’s ESSA News: Idaho Chief Warns Against Repealing Academic Standards, Federal Funding for STEAM Education, DeVos Sees Block Grants Driving Local Flexibility & More

This update on the Every Student Succeeds Act and the education plans now being implemented by states and school districts is produced in partnership with ESSA Essentials, an ongoing 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.)

According to Education Week, the proposed budget recently released by the Trump administration would call for the U.S. Department of Education to create a new block grant “consisting of 29 current programs called ‘Elementary and Secondary Education for the Disadvantaged Block Grant.’” At a proposed funding rate of $19.4 billion, the grant would “get $4.7 billion less than the current combined funding for the programs that would be merged together.”

The grant would also “consist of some of the largest programs under the Every Student Succeeds Act,” including Title I spending for disadvantaged students and Title II grants for educator development.

Naaz Modan reports on the same issue for Education Dive, noting that President Trump’s draft budget proposal would “cut key K-12 programs while funding private school scholarships.” Overall, the president’s budget proposal would give the Department of Education $66.6 billion in funding in 2021, “7.8% or $5.6 billion less than the previous year.” One of the biggest changes in the proposed budget is a restructuring of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act into a $19.4 million block grant that would consolidate major programs, including the Every Student Succeeds Act’s Title I and Title II. The proposed budget would also invest “an additional $100 million in funding in special needs” as well as other priorities, such as Education Freedom Scholarships, an initiative Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos “has been pushing since last year.”

The 74’s Mark Keierleber takes a closer look at what programs the budget would create, combine, trim or de-emphasize.

Beyond the White House, here are the week’s other top headlines for how states are implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act:

Idaho state chief warns against repealing academic standards

As Clark Corbin reports for Idaho EdNews, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra recently provided state lawmakers with an analysis of federal education laws — and warned them not to repeal academic standards without replacing them. According to Ybarra, doing so “could jeopardize $250 million in annual federal funding for Idaho’s most at-risk students.”

Ybarra cited the need for the state to put in place “replacement standards that meet Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requirements” or else risk losing significant federal funding. The Idaho House Education Committee had previously voted to “repeal all of Idaho’s K-12 academic standards in math, English and science.” Since then, the Senate Education Committee voted unanimously to keep the standards.

Leveraging ESSA and Perkins V for STEAM education 

A one-page policy outline that was recently released by the Education Commission of the States and the Arts Education Partnership provides a broad overview of how states and districts can support STEAM education efforts under Title IV of the Every Student Succeeds Act and Section 124(b)(16) of the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V). STEAM education encourages students to “demonstrate critical thinking and creative problem-solving at the intersection of science, technology, engineering, arts and math.” The document outlines opportunities, key players, state examples and important resources for educators and education advocates.

DeVos sees proposed block grants as tool for local ‘flexibility’

In an interview with Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos by Cal Thomas, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos claims that President Trump’s recent 2021 budget proposal includes “a significant step toward returning flexibility to the states through a proposal to block grant all of the elementary and secondary education funds,” which will let states “prioritize where those funds are going to be best utilized.” According to Thomas, “DeVos sees her block grant proposals as ‘a very compatible step to Congress’s action on the Every Student Succeeds Act.’”

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