The Obama administration is dropping a last-minute effort to force hundreds of school districts to shift nearly $1 billion in spending from well-financed elementary and secondary schools to their schools with large numbers of low-income students.
The Education Department said Wednesday it is withdrawing a proposed policy that would have dramatically increased federal control over school-district budgets, because it “did not have time to publish a strong final regulation.”
As CNN reported Tuesday, the department had been rushing to finalize a regulation before Obama leaves office at noon on Friday and Donald Trump becomes president.
Even if the department had adopted the regulation by Friday, it would have faced strong opposition from Republicans in Congress, who could have overturned it with a majority vote and a presidential signature.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, welcomed the department’s move today and said the regulation would have violated a federal law enacted in 2015 that aims to give states and school districts more control over education.
“This proposal would have dictated from Washington how states and school districts should spend nearly all state and local tax dollars on schools in order to receive federal Title I dollars,” Alexander said a statement. Title I is a federal program that provides roughly $15 billion a year to schools and districts with large numbers of low-income students.
Alexander, chairman of the Senate education committee, was the main congressional sponsor of the 2015 law.
The Education Department had worked on the regulation for a year and envisioned it as a way to ensure that the nation’s 14,000 school districts spent the same amount of state and local money per pupil in their various schools. The department had found that many school districts spend less per pupil in schools eligible for Title I funds than they spend in schools that are not eligible.
The just-withdrawn regulation would have required districts nationwide to shift a total of $800 million to Title I schools from non-Title I schools, or to spend an additional $2.2 billion in state and local funds on Title I schools.
“There are still far too many places in this country where the students getting the most support end up getting the least,” said Education Department press secretary Dorie Nolt in a statement.