07.15.15

Burr Speaks on Bipartisan Legislation to Increase Education Funding for America’s Poorest Children

WASHINGTON – Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) spoke on his bipartisan amendment, Full Educational Opportunity Act, to the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA) on the floor last night. The Full Educational Opportunity Act makes more federal educations dollars available to low income children across the United States by treating poor children the same.  

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Watch Burr’s Floor Speech here

Senator Burr on the Senate Floor: “For decades, this [amendment] penalized poorer states who spend high shares of their tax revenue on education but don't spend as much in absolute terms as wealthier states. This change ensures that poor children born in a poor state aren't penalized because of their zip code and for not living in a wealthy state in the country.”

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The legislation clarifies the Title 1-A section of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to end a discriminatory policy that unfairly favors a few states at the expense of poor children who reside in the rest of America.  The amendment would more properly allocate education money to 36 states, plus the District of Columbia, by multiplying their number of poor children by national costs to educate them instead of relying on the current, byzantine formula used by the federal government.

North Carolina alone will benefit by $72 million dollars representing an increase of 17.41% over current funding levels.

Background:

In 1965, President Johnson and Congress pledged to provide “financial assistance to school districts serving areas with concentrations of children from low-income families”. Over successive revisions of the law over the decades, however, it has become clear the tool for achieving this goal –Title I-A’s allocation formula – was constructed in a flawed manner, limiting its ability to target funding to those students most in need. 

Rather than fix these flaws, Congress continued to compound the problem by creating more complicated formulas and promises of new funding that never materialize.  The end result has been a formula rigged to benefit a handful of states at the expense of the rest of the country.


The Problem: Title I-A, and the low-income children it is intended to serve, suffers from the following flaws:

1. Title I-A is comprised of four complicated formulas, each of which contains flaws in how well low-income students are targeted;

2. Current law focuses on education expenditures and effort, as measured by tax base, as a proxy for cost, but really reflects the wealth of states and districts and their ability to spend on their students;

3. The formulas tend to favor very large districts in absolute numbers, but have no concentrated poverty test to ensure they are not benefiting at the expense of smaller districts that have equally high pockets of poverty;


Summary: The Full Educational Opportunity Act does the following:

1. Streamlines all Title I-A funding into one formula, a reformed Educational Finance Incentive Grant (EFIG) formula, entitled “Equity Grants”;

2. Removes current law’s distortionary policies that benefit higher wealth and capacity states and districts while limiting Title I-A’s reach to concentrated areas of poverty throughout the country; and

3. Provides poor children in smaller districts with the same opportunity as those in larger districts.

Additional details on the plan are available here. Legislation is available here. Additional state breakdowns are available here.