This week, Congress passed and President Trump signed into law a funding package that finalizes spending levels for the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Departments for fiscal year 2020.
New Leaders is pleased that lawmakers have increased overall education funding by $1.3 billion. In particular, the spending deal increases funding for the Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants program (Title II, Part A), the Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) program, and the Education Innovation and Research (EIR) program—each of which can be used to support a variety of school leadership investments. In addition, funding remains intact for the Teacher and School Leader Incentive Program (TSL).
Further, we are thrilled that Congress has acknowledged the importance of school leadership by including report language directing the U.S. Department of Education to prioritize for funding under the SEED program applicants whose projects support the preparation of principals and other school leaders committed to serving communities that have been systematically denied resources and respect in the United States the longest.
At the same time, we are dismayed that the spending bill provides no funding for the School Leader Recruitment and Support Program (SLRSP)—the only federal program specifically focused on investing in evidence-based, locally-driven strategies to strengthen leadership in high-need schools. This represents a significant missed opportunity for the federal government to support states and districts committed to leveraging leadership to dismantle unacceptable disparities in the opportunities, resources, and supports available to students, teachers, and communities.
Outstanding principals deliver breakthrough students achievement gains in large part through their work supporting teachers. These leaders focus on making teaching an energizing, sustainable career choice by creating school environments that foster teacher collaboration, professional development, and shared leadership. Such leaders galvanize entire communities to support students’ dreams for themselves and our world. In schools led by effective leaders, teachers and students grow and thrive. Not surprising, research finds that the best principals retain the most effective teachers at higher rates—and, together, these educators ensure students are truly prepared for whatever path they choose to pursue in life.
As deliberations begin regarding FY 2021 funding, we urge Congress to fund SLRSP at $14.5 million to seed innovative, evidence-based school leadership programs and partnerships that promise a return for students, teachers, and schools that far exceeds this targeted investment.