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Education Department Drops Controversial 'Supplement Not Supplant' Regulation

The Department of Education announced yesterday it would be dropping a regulation applicable to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) that would require states to use federal Title I dollars in addition to but not instead of state and local funding.

The regulation, which has been referred to as 'supplement not supplant,' was designed with the intention to ensure that the neediest schools and districts would receive the appropriate amount of aid.

Despite the well-meaning intention, the regulation immediately received flak from Republicans, state and local leaders and even the heads of teachers' unions. According to critics, the 'supplement not supplant' stipulation would send K-12 budgets into chaos on a national level. Other critics, like ESSA architect and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee chair Lamar Alexander accused the Department of overreach; Alexander argued the Department had over-stepped its role in its interpretation of ESSA’s requirements.

Specifically, the regulation intended to require states to "demonstrate that the methodology used to allocate State and local funds to each title I school ensures that such school receives all of the State and local funds it would otherwise receive if it were not a title I school."

Supporters of the 'supplement not supplant' regulation rejoiced, believing it would finally be a way to provide equitable funding for all of the nation's K-12 schools. 

"Achieving true educational equity is not an easy task…We applaud the department for using its full regulatory authority to tackle this important challenge to ensure that schools in every community are equipped with the resources necessary to graduate all students ready to succeed," wrote the leading Democrats of the Senate and House education committees in November.

However, both opponents and supporters expressed equal concern that the regulation's requirement of equitable teachers' salaries across districts "could cause an upheaval in school programming and finances," said The 74.

In response to the criticism, the Obama Administration's Department of Education announced in its final days that it would be doing away with the regulation all together.

Alexander, the regulation's most vocal critic, issued the following statement in response to the Department's decision, according to The

I am glad the Education Department has listened to Congress and has chosen not to move forward with its proposed 'supplement-not-supplant' regulation. 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—which are only about 3 percent of total national spending on K-12 schools. A regulation like this is not authorized by law; in fact, it is specifically prohibited by law.

I look forward to working with the incoming Trump administration and Betsy DeVos, once confirmed, so we can ensure that the Every Student Succeeds Act is implemented as Congress wrote it, restoring control of public schools to states like Tennessee and to local communities.

President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, was likely to overturn the regulation if the Department decided not to, anyway. The Republican candidate said during her Senate confirmation hearing that she would implement ESSA as "Congress intended."

Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor


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