More Federal Money to Low Performing Schools

On July 29, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved an appropriations bill that would provide the U.S. Department of Education with $48.8 billion in discretionary funding for Fiscal Year 2011. That amount represents an increase of about $2.7 billion over last year, but is $800 million less than the amount President Obama requested in his budget.

Included in the Senate Appropriation Committee’s version of the Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS), and Education appropriations bill was $625 million for the School Improvement Grants program, which targets the nation’s lowest-performing schools. The committee included a provision directing 40 percent of these funds be used to turn around the five thousand lowest-performing secondary schools, including the nation’s “dropout factories,” where 60 percent or fewer high school freshmen progress to senior year on time.  The major funding stream for assisting the lowest-performing K–12 schools is the School Improvement Grants program or SIG.

The bill would provide $14.94 billion for the Title I program, an increase of $500 million over last year. The Striving Readers program would receive $250 million, an increase of $50 million, while Statewide Data Systems would receive $65 million, an increase of about $7 million.

The bill will next go to the Senate floor, although a timetable for its consideration has not been set. On the House side, the Labor, HHS, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee passed its version of the bill on July 15, but it has yet to be taken up by the full House Appropriations Committee.

When is enough, not enough?  The funding, while welcomed, is not enough to reach half of the nation’s dropout factories.