The Obama administration is considering a major last-minute policy shift that could force hundreds of school districts to cut spending at well-financed elementary and secondary schools and move nearly $1 billion dollars to schools with large numbers of low-income students.

The policy, written by the Department of Education, is under review by the White House budget office and has drawn fierce opposition from Republican lawmakers and school administrators.

It was first proposed in September, but the department appears to have rushed to adopt it since Donald Trump won the presidential election. Adopting the regulation before Friday at noon would bind the incoming Trump administration unless Congress overturns it.
Republicans on Capitol Hill have pledged to oppose many “midnight regulations” from the Obama White House, and the issue could also come up at the nomination hearing Tuesday for Donald Trump’s secretary of education, Betsy DeVos.
The regulation would dramatically increase federal control over spending at many of the nation’s 14,000 school districts and force some districts to increase spending at low-income schools.
Districts could achieve the increase by diverting money — a total of $800 million nationwide — from more-affluent schools, or by spending an additional $2.2 billion in state and local funds, the Education Department says.
The regulation would apply only to school districts that have both low-income schools that get Title I federal funds and higher-income schools that are not eligible for the money.
“If this were to be finalized, it would be a huge deal because it’s saying how local and state money inside school districts is to be distributed across schools,” said Nora Gordon, a school-finance expert at Georgetown University.
Scott Sargrad, a former Education Department official, said the regulation “could significantly improve achievement for students” in low-income schools.
“This is the federal government explicitly saying poor students need to have at least the same resources as their higher-income counterparts. That’s a significant step for the federal government to say that,” said Sargrad, who is now an education policy expert at Center for American Progress, a liberal Washington think tank.
But opponents including Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, say federal law does not give the administration the authority to enact such a far-reaching regulation.
Alexander, chairman of the Senate education committee and a former secretary of education, has vowed to block the regulation — a move that would require a majority vote in both houses of Congress and the President’s signature.
Congress could also effectively stymie the regulation by denying the department funding to implement it.
The National School Boards Association called the regulation “unnecessary” and “unwarranted federal overreach” that would constrain school districts.

 

 

 


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