New York, NY—The Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-H) appropriations bill could provide critical funding and much-needed stability for federal programs that focus on improving leading, teaching, and learning in our nation’s public schools. However, New Leaders is extremely concerned by the deep cuts to education funding contained in the bill that recently passed the Committee; we strongly urge Members of the Senate to consider restoring, and even expanding, funding for critical education programs as part of an overall increase in non-defense discretionary spending as the bill moves to the Senate floor.
The importance of investing in high-quality school leaders cannot be overstated—principals account for 25 percent of a school’s effect on student achievement, and a highly effective principal can increase student achievement by as much as 20 percentage points. If we are serious about improving student achievement, we must make the investments that support the identification, development, and retention of exceptional principals, assistant principals, and teacher leaders.
The bill that passed out of Committee would eliminate more than $1.7 billion in discretionary funding for the U.S. Department of Education (the Department)—part of an overall $3.6 billion cut from all agencies covered by the bill. As they stand currently, these cuts would deal a crippling blow not only to the development of effective school leaders, but to a wide range of programs critical to improving student achievement.
Specifically, we urge Members of the Senate to continue funding, at least at the fiscal year 2015 levels, for the School Leadership Program (SLP) and the Investing in Innovation (i3) fund, both of which would be eliminated by the current bill. We also urge Senators to increase funding to the fiscal year 2015 levels for the Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) grants and the School Improvement Grants (SIG). Together, these programs provide critical federal support for the development of effective school leaders and school leadership practices, which have a profound effect on teacher quality and student achievement.
- School Leadership Program ($38,800,000). SLP provides grants to high-poverty school districts to assist in the recruitment, preparation, and retention of effective principals, and is the only currently funded, federal program dedicated specifically to strengthening school leadership. SLP gives high-poverty districts the resources to develop dynamic leaders who have a measurable, positive impact on student achievement.
- Investing in Innovation Fund ($300,000,000). i3 supports the development, validation, and scaling up of innovative strategies and interventions for addressing persistent education challenges. The Department has established priorities for i3 relating, among other areas, to (1) developing and implementing models for principal preparation that deepen proven leadership skills, and (2) increasing equitable access to effective teachers and principals for student from low-income families and other high-needs students. Thus, i3 can play a key role in identifying and expanding school leadership development programs that truly have a positive effect on student achievement and school performance, especially in predominantly low-income districts.
- Teacher Incentive Fund grants ($350,000,000). TIF provides for the development and implementation of sustainable, performance-based compensation systems for teachers, principals, and other personnel in high-need schools in order to increase educator effectiveness and student achievement. This program has been instrumental in helping schools and districts move from a pay system based primarily on seniority to one that focuses on student outcomes. TIF helps send the message that the ultimate goal is human resource systems that enable meaningful learning for all kids—regardless of their background, zip code, native language, or developmental needs.
- School Improvement Grants ($555,800,000). SIG provides funding to state education agencies (SEAs), which the SEAs use to make competitive subgrants to districts that demonstrate the greatest need and the strongest commitment to use the funds to support students in their lowest-performing schools. The SIG program is designed specifically to support the lowest performing schools—those that are most in need of strong leadership. In particular, New Leaders supports the Turnaround School Leaders Program that funds efforts to select, prepare, support, and retain school leaders in SIG schools.
We strongly encourage the Senate to restore or increase funding for these critical programs, as part of an action to raise the cap on non-defense discretionary spending and fund essential domestic priorities, especially in education.