Policy Feature Issue: Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Reauthorization

The original Elementary and Secondary Education Act was enacted and signed into law in 1965.  Originally authorized through 1970, the ESEA had been routinely authorized from 1965 until the early 2000s.  The most recent authorization came in 2002, when Congress reauthorized ESEA through the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB).  ESEA provides federal funding to elementary and secondary schools, primarily to supplement state and local funding for disadvantaged students.  ESEA has not been reauthorized since NCLB expired in 2007.  Congressional inaction has allowed the Administration to impose its own view of education reform on the nation free from Congressional oversight. First, with Race to the Top, originally funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and then through waivers of ESEA law,the Administration has used grant funds and some regulatory flexibility to coerce states into adopting the Common Core and various other policies preferred by the Administration.

Titles in the Current ESEA:

The crux of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is Title I, which authorizes funding to public schools in order to educate low-income students.[1]  Title I is intended to provide schools with the resources they need to strengthen educational programs and improve academic achievement.[2]

NCLB required states that receive Title I funding to administer yearly state-wide assessments in reading and math, and assessments once every three years in science.  Schools were held accountable for making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) based mostly on the percentage of students testing as “proficient” on the annual reading and math assessments.  Title I schools who repeatedly fail to meet AYP standards are subject to a series of federally-prescribed school improvement interventions.   NCLB also required that all teachers teaching “core academic subjects” be “highly qualified”.[3]  This means that they must hold at least a bachelor’s degree, a teaching certification, and have demonstrated subject-area knowledge in the subject they teach.

Title II is primarily concerned with preparing, training, and recruiting quality teachers.  Funds are used to set up programs that fulfill this goal.[4]  Title III addresses the allocation of funds toward providing language instruction for those with limited proficiency as well as for immigrant students.  Title IV addresses funding for school safety, and how states can receive federal funding to implement programs that address safety.  It also provides opportunities for communities to establish or expand activities in community learning centers to improve opportunities for “academic enrichment”.[5]

Title V is established as the innovations component of ESEA.  Title V is intended to support local education reform efforts, provide funding to agencies that implement positive reform programs, to support programs promoting the start-up of public charter schools, and to develop programs to improve student, school and teacher performance.[6]  Title VI funds state development of academic assessments and includes the Rural Education Initiative, which provides funding to rural school districts to help meet the unique needs of rural communities.[7]  Title VII provides grants for Indian, Hawaiian Native, and Alaska Native education.

Title VIII of ESEA addresses the Impact Aid Program.  Impact Aid is established to assist local school districts that have lost property tax revenue due to the presence of tax-exempt Federal property within their school boundaries.  In 2003, $1.19 billion was allocated to school districts whose tax base was affected this way.  Schools are able to use most impact aid funds in any manner they choose in accordance with their local or state requirements.[8]

Legislation Status:

The House Education and Workforce Committee has introduced H.R. 5, the Student Success Act, which reforms ESEA by restoring state and local authority for evaluating school performance, eliminates and consolidates most of the existing ESEA programs, and includes prohibitions against federal involvement in the Common Core.  The Committee has released a fact sheet and bill summary which outlines some of the major changes H.R. 5 makes to elementary and secondary education.

For additional resources, please visit the Education and Workforce Committee’s website which includes further information on the Student Success Act at: http://edworkforce.house.gov/studentsuccessact/.