Washington, D.C.– Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva today highlighted a letter sent by the heads of several Congressional groups questioning House Committee on Education and The Workforce chairman Rep. John Kline’s (R-Minn.) bill to allow states and school districts to ignore the purpose of certain federal education funds when setting spending priorities. Kline’s bill, which passed the Committee on a party-line vote earlier today, would eliminate long-standing requirements that certain federal funds go to assist specific student populations, including English language learners and students at impoverished schools.
Grijalva, a member of the education committee and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) – where he heads the Education Task Force – pointed out that the State and Local Funding Flexibility Act (H.R. 2445), while not changing the formulas for how the federal Department of Education sends funds to states, allows school districts essentially to ignore requirements for how certain funds are spent. Federal dollars currently designated for impoverished students in Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as well as dollars currently designated for assisting English language learner students in Title III, would become part of a general fund, regardless of the fact that the funds would still be granted based on traditional formulas measuring poverty and language proficiency respectively.
As the letter says, the bill comes “at a time when school districts across the country are experiencing substantial increases in enrollment of students with little or no English proficiency who require specific and appropriate support services. It is unconscionable to allow the siphoning away of targeted funds from low-income students and students learning English as a second language.”
“This bill isn’t really about flexibility at all,” Grijalva said. “This is about taking money away from populations who need additional resources: migrant students, English language learners, and children who attend highly impoverished schools. Leaving them in the dust and eliminating more than four decades’ worth of civil rights protections isn’t what we mean when we say schools should have the flexibility they need. If Republicans really wanted to give schools more power, they would eliminate the red tape created by the No Child Left Behind law, which this bill conspicuously fails to address. This is ‘flexibility’ that no one is asking for.”
The letter, signed by the House Tri-Caucus – representing the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, Congressional Black Caucus and CHC – was sent to Reps. Kline, George Miller (D-Calif.), Dale Kildee (D-Mich.) and Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.). Miller is the ranking member of the full committee. Hunter heads the committee’s Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Subcommittee, where Kildee is the ranking member.