North Carolina would get an additional $23.5 million a year for schools as a result of a change in federal education funding that Sen. Richard Burr added to the new version of the K-12 education law that’s now before Congress.
Burr, a Republican from Winston-Salem, said his bill fixed what he said was an inequity in federal funding for schools that dated back 14 years to when the legislation was last updated, as the No Child Left Behind law.
“It’s pretty simple. North Carolina’s been cheated since the last time this was reauthorized, along with 32 other states,” Burr said in an interview on Wednesday. “Now we’ve revised it to where the money is going to follow the population and the kids that are at risk.”
Burr’s legislation would phase out a provision in the original 2001 measure that allowed states that were receiving Title II funds, named for part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, to keep the same level of funds even if their populations were declining. Title II funds are used for teacher preparation and incentives, as well as other needs. They’re largely directed to aid low-income students.
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Another Burr amendment would change the formula so that 80 percent of Title II money is based on poverty. Currently it’s 65 percent.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, of which Burr is a member, approved both of his amendments in mid-April just before it unanimously passed a bipartisan revision of the education law.
One amendment would phase out a “hold harmless” provision that has allowed states to keep their funding levels even if their populations declined. Some states, such as Pennsylvania, would lose money under Burr’s approach. In the end, the committee voted in favor of Burr’s amendments.
Explaining why he “put up a fight” in the committee over getting the change inserted into the law, Burr said: “If we really are serious about fixing elementary and secondary education for all kids, then you can’t not face the reality that low-income kids typically have more challenging schools, probably don’t have the best teachers in the system, and to overcome those it takes additional resources to do it.”
Views of Burr’s change could vary, depending on whether states were winners or losers. But with 32 states and the District of Columbia expected to gain, he said he felt confident his plan would have enough support in the Senate.
“The Burr amendment benefits some urban districts and disadvantages others,” said Henry Duvall, a spokesman for the Council of the Great City Schools, an advocacy group for urban education. He said the council hadn’t taken a position on it.
The additional $23.5 million would be added to the $49.7 million North Carolina now receives in Title II money annually.
Burr said the rewrite of the education law that the committee passed “has embraced everything that was on my wish list to accomplish, and maybe a little bit more.”
He said the bill “dismantled the national school board,” a reference to the Education Department’s ability under current law to tell states what they had to do to get waivers from what were seen nationally as the law’s unworkable requirements.
“We’ve pushed the majority of the decisions to the state and localities,” he said
Burr said he expects the bill to go through smoothly when it reaches the Senate floor. The biggest challenge will be getting a bill from the House of Representatives so that the two chambers can work out differences and send a measure to the president, Burr said. “But I think that’s doable,” he added.
The House stopped discussions on the bill earlier this year when some conservative Republicans said it didn’t go far enough in eliminating a federal role in education.
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