Today, the President signed into law an omnibus appropriations bill that establishes final FY 2018 funding levels for federal programs. The spending package provides overdue clarity for our schools, school systems, and their partners regarding the availability of funding for programs that directly benefit students, teachers, principals, and other educators and school leaders in every community across the country.
We are especially pleased that funding for the Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants program (Title II, Part A) remains intact. The 24 states that have committed to taking advantage of a new, optional leadership set-aside in Title II, Part A, can now move forward with their plans to strengthen school leadership in service of their goals for school and student success.
Moreover, we are glad to see that other programs that focus on outcomes for educators and students—including the Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) program, the Education Innovation and Research (EIR) program, and the Teacher and School Leader Incentive Program (TSL)—received funding, including small increases for SEED and EIR.
At the same time, we are extremely disappointed that the spending package 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 school leadership in high-need schools.
Authorized by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) with bipartisan support, SLRSP empowers states and school districts, individually or in partnership with nonprofits or institutions of higher education, to accelerate the recruitment, preparation, support, and retention of dynamic school leaders who have a measurable, positive effect on student achievement in high-need schools.
A prior iteration of this program seeded some of the country’s most innovative and effective principal preparation programs—programs that have since grown exponentially to reach many more schools, teachers, and students in need of outstanding leadership and greatly expanding the impact of the federal government’s initial investment. Of note, several grantees have demonstrated a remarkable commitment to programmatic evaluation, continuous improvement, and transparency; by sharing their lessons and resources open-source with the field, grantees have helped to galvanize dramatic changes to the principal preparation sector as a whole.
Failing to fund SLRSP in FY 2018 represents a significant step backward in our collective efforts to get a well-prepared, well-supported principal in every school. Further, it is a missed opportunity for the federal government to direct dollars toward school leadership programs and partnerships that would continue to help build an evidence base regarding what works in education and that promise a return for students, schools, and communities that far exceeds its initial, targeted investment.
Despite this unfortunate development, we remain hopeful that funding for SLRSP can be restored in the FY 2019 funding bill. Just days ago, a bipartisan group of U.S. Representatives pledged their support for the program, highlighting its evidence base and noting that investments in SLRSP “can amplify other investments in educator quality and lead to improved outcomes for educators, students, and families.”
In the weeks and months ahead, New Leaders, along with a diverse coalition of advocates who understand and deeply value the important role principals play in creating schools where teachers thrive and students excel, will continue to work with Members of Congress to reinstate funding for this critical investment in our nation’s school leaders—and, thereby, in the teachers, students, families, and communities they serve.