August 12, 2015
State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Disappointed By Federal Decision Limiting Local Control over Programs to Help Low-Income Students
SACRAMENTO—A U.S. Department of Education decision denying California a waiver that has been given to 43 states and eight large districts in California reduces the access of academically struggling students to high-quality programs and prevents districts from designing programs that best suit their students’ needs, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said today.
"California has led the way in giving districts the opportunity to make their own decisions about how best to use state and local resources to meet their local needs," he said. "Unfortunately, this decision goes in the other direction and retains policies that significantly limit local control and decision-making, and reduce student access to high-quality extended-day instruction."
California requested a four-year waiver of the provisions of Section 1116 (e) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) regarding supplemental educational services. Some districts are required to provide these services using 20 percent of Title I federal funds, which are allocated based on the number of students eligible for free or reduced-priced lunches.
The code section set up a system that largely relies on private providers to assist students away from school. During three school years, California schools spent about $507 million on this program with little evidence to show improved academic performance by students who participated.
California sought to allow those districts to decide how best to provide instruction outside the regular school day. Under the proposal by both the California Department of Education and the State Board of Education, the instruction would be developed and administered by districts, which would rely on highly qualified teachers to design and monitor the programs. In addition, districts would be more likely to offer the assistance on a school site, making it more convenient for parents and giving teachers continuous feedback about student progress. Districts also would be free to continue to use private providers.
"We strongly believe decisions about how and where to provide services to students are best made at the local level," said Torlakson. "Districts are in the best position to design extended-day intervention strategies to provide assistance to low-income students who are struggling academically in subjects such as English language arts, mathematics, and science."
Currently, the U.S. Congress is considering two separate pieces of legislation that would reauthorize the ESEA. Torlakson noted that neither bill retains the current requirement of setting aside 20 percent of Title I funds for supplemental educational services. Consequently, under both bills districts would have more say than they do now over spending decisions and programs involving low-income students who are struggling academically.
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Tom Torlakson —
State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5602, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100