Proposed reauthorization of ESEA moving more EL responsibilities to Title I


In February, the House Education and the Workforce Committee took up the long overdue task of reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) as amended by the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) committee had done the same, starting in January and then again introducing a bipartisan bill in April. The House and Senate bills both move some or all responsibilities for English Learners from Title III to Title I.

Here’s what you need to know:

  1. The House bill, the Student Success Act (SSA), moves “Title III” into Title I and is found in the SSA at “Title I, Subtitle C, Subpart 4 - English Language Acquisition, Language Enhancement, and Academic Achievement.” Under the SSA the funding for EL formula grants is directly tied to Title I as a percentage of the total Title I allocation, not as a separate funding stream.
  2. The Senate bill, the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA), maintains a separate funding stream for Title III. It also maintains the requirement to assess the English language proficiency (ELP) of all ELs under Title I. However, it strikes EL parent notification, EL parent participation, and ELP Standards out of Title III and moves it to Title I.
  3. The Title III supplement not supplant requirement still includes “federal, state, and local funds”. Because of the ‘federal’ clause, whatever is required by Title I is not an allowable expenditure under Title III.
  4. No matter how you look at either of these bills, there is an apparent shift that will require Title I and Title III directors to work more closely together to meet the needs of ELs; and Title I will be required to take even more responsibility for serving ELs.

Reauthorization Progress:
Both the House and Senate reauthorization bills have been passed through committee. The House bill went to the floor for discussion, but was not brought to a vote and it is uncertain if and when this might happen. The Senate bill has not seen floor time yet, but the Chairman of the HELP committee, Senator Lamar Alexander, has said that he would like it scheduled for floor discussion before the Memorial Day recess. This did not happen.

Typically, both bills would need to be passed in their respective chambers and then go to a joint conference committee. If a compromise bill can be agreed upon in the joint conference committee and passed, then the bill would be sent to the President for his signature.

Shifting of EL Responsibilities:
There are a lot of similarities in the EL activities required in each bill. Even though they move things around, both bills retain most of the requirements that are currently outlined in Title I and Title III of the ESEA/NCLB.

There are two major things that are eliminated in both bills. One is Part B of Title III, which is the provision for Title III grants to become competitive, rather than formula, if allocations for Title III fall below $650 million (this has never happened). The other is Title III accountability, called Annual Measurable Achievement Objectives (AMAOs), which require measures of ELs progress toward ELP, attainment of ELP, and academic achievement. Accountability for ELs is still required, but it is not as clearly spelled out. It is found under Title I as part of the requirements for a State’s accountability system.

There are some significant differences between the ways the two bills handle EL activities. The SSA eliminates Title III as a separate funding stream under ESEA and merges it under Title I, tying funding directly to Title I. How this will impact the way EL programs are implemented is unclear, but making it a part of Title I definitely places more responsibility for these programs under that title. The ECAA retains Title III as a separate funding stream under ESEA, but strikes ELP standards, EL parent notification, and EL parent participation out of Title III and moves it to Title I. This is significant because the ECAA retains the ‘federal’ supplement not supplant clause under Title III. This means that the EL activities that were moved to Title I would not be allowable expenditures under Title III.

For now, rest assured knowing that the ESEA/NCLB requirements will continue in place until this law is reauthorized. Based on the bills that have been drafted, much of what is required under ESEA/NCLB will still be required after reauthorization, including parental notification.

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About The Author

Alyssa Thornley has spent her career working to support schools and communities in providing opportunity to all students. In positions as a teacher, professional development coordinator, and as a volunteer, she has focused on the community’s role in education, and in designing efficient programs that work for diverse needs. Alyssa leads TransACT’s customer engagement and market strategy efforts, and works to ensure innovative programs, guidance, and thought leadership from across the country’s districts are being shared and spread.