ESEA Reauthorization: Sen. Alexander's Proposed Supplement Not Supplant Compliance Rules

David DeSchryver

Sen. Lamar Alexander's discussion draft bill provides new supplement, not supplant language that may have significant implications for the education market. The new language preserves the requirement that federal Title I funds are used only to supplement state and local dollars, but the compliance test is quite different.„

In order to comply with the proposed requirement, school districts would have to demonstrate that "the methodology used to allocate state and local funds to each school receiving assistance under this part ensures that such school receives all of the state and local funds it would otherwise receive if it were not receiving assistance under this part." In other words, the method of distributing state and local funds must ensure that the schools get their due of state and local funding.„

The bill goes on to say that the Secretary does not have the authority to establish any criterion that specifies, designs, or prescribes the methods or manners by which a district would demonstrate compliance with the new supplement, not supplant compliance test. It also says that no district would be required to identify individual costs or provide specific services through a particular instructional method or setting in order to demonstrate compliance.

The importance of the change cannot be overstated. Today, unless a school is operating a school-wide model, the test to ensure compliance is rather fact specific and burdensome - a gift to auditors and attorneys. That changes under this bill. A district need only to show that the methodology of getting state and local funds to its schools is clear and transparent enough to ensure that Title I funds are not used to supplant state and local dollars. Under that test, it does not matter if an innovative digital learning program benefits Title I eligible students and all other students in the district. It does not matter that the service can both address core instruction and remediation. These factors are not relevant to the new funding formula compliance test, and this opens up the market and makes innovative school leadership much easier to realize.„

Keep in mind that these are proposed changes. There will be concerns that this could dilute the Title I focus on serving at-risk students in schools with concentrations of poverty and there will be a lot of back and forth (to put it politely) in the coming months. We will be following this closely as it develops. Do not hesitate to contact us with questions.