State Board of Ed backs plan for federal funds for English learners, low-income students

The State Board of Education has adopted a plan that will guide California’s spending of about $2.6 billion in federal funds to help English learners and low-income students.

The plan, approved by the board on Sept. 13, is part of the state’s effort to comply with the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA. Signed into law by President Obama in 2015, ESSA replaced the No Child Left Behind Act as the primary federal school accountability tool, and it serves as the basis for most federal school funding.

money in education jar

ESSA gives states more flexibility to set goals and determine how to measure student achievement. It also requires states that receive federal dollars in support of low-income students and English learners to submit a spending plan — California says it’s “essentially a grant application” — to the U.S. Department of Education.

California’s plan reinforces its shift away from top-down decision-making and toward local control, allowing school districts to better meet local needs, state officials said.

The $2.6 billion from the federal government represents about 2.5 percent of all K-12 spending budgeted for California for 2017-18. EdSource examined the spending plan and provided a summary on how the state will distribute the funds. Here’s the breakdown:

  • About $1.8 billion goes to low-income students and $128 million to migrant children. The state board will have discretion on how to spend about 7 percent of that; it hasn’t decided how yet.
  • About $230 million goes to districts to train and recruit teachers and school leaders. The state board is considering using about $6 million to train principals on new academic standards.
  • About $150 million is for language instruction for English learners.
  • About $180 million is for academic enrichment and after-school programs, including work improving school climates.

“With the ESSA plan, we believe we have achieved the right balance between meeting federal requirements and focusing on our state priorities that will help prepare all students for college and careers,” State Board President Michael Kirst said in a news release.