Policy Priorities

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CDF Priorities for ESEA Reauthorization

Ensuring Quality Education for Our Nation’s Most Vulnerable Children

More than 15 million children in rich America live in poverty. Almost 25 percent of children under five are poor, including 42 percent of Black children and 35 percent of Hispanic children. The best hope these poor children have of lifting themselves out of poverty is a quality education. Yet for too long, many poor children have been denied this opportunity. Inequities in education funding, resources and opportunities leave millions of poor and minority children in low-performing schools with inadequate facilities and ineffective teachers. The Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) urges Congress to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) in 2011 and address the following priorities:

Accountability for the Education of ALL Vulnerable Children

Title I of ESEA was created to provide vulnerable and disadvantaged children with the extra support they need to be successful in school.  In reauthorizing ESEA, Congress must ensure that states and districts are held accountable for making progress in all schools receiving Title I funds, including the lowest performing schools, “dropout factories,” and schools with significant achievement gaps. Congress should also continue to require states and districts to collect, disaggregate, publicly report, and submit to the Department of Education data on student achievement.

Funding Equity Among Schools, Districts, and States

Title I of ESEA was created to ensure all children have a fair, equal and significant opportunity for a high-quality education by leveling the playing field for poor children. Currently, however, formulas that determine the distribution of Title I funds and the Title I “comparability requirement” are stacked against children struggling in areas of concentrated poverty. ESEA reauthorization must include a revised Title I formula to eliminate current inequities caused by the use of number weighting and state average per pupil expenditure factors. The “comparability loophole” must be eliminated within school districts to truly equalize state and local expenditures in Title I and non-Title I schools so poor children will not be subsidizing rich children. These changes together will help eliminate funding inequities which disproportionately affect poor and minority children.

Support for Full Day Kindergarten

Congress should provide incentives to states to ensure all school districts offer full-day kindergarten to prevent children from missing an important foundational step on the K-12 road.  Just 12 states currently require all districts to provide full-day kindergarten, yet 43 states have approved K-12 Common Core Standards that will be hard to meet if the first step in a child's K-12 education is broken.  

Helping Vulnerable Children Stay in School and Succeed 

Children who drop out of school often pay a heavy price later in life. It is critical to identify students most at-risk of dropping out and put appropriate interventions in place early to help them graduate from high school. Incarcerated youths have exceptional educational needs that require special resources. Children in foster care need to be assured of educational stability to help them achieve.

  • Prevent children from dropping out and ensure they graduate from high school.  Congress must require that elementary and middle schools collect and monitor data on proven indicators of future dropout (e.g. attendance, behavior/discipline, and course failure) for every student.  A reauthorized ESEA must also target School Improvement Grants proportionately to high schools and focus competitive grant programs on effective dropout prevention.
  • Increase educational support, continuity and stability for children in juvenile detention facilities and foster care. Part D of Title I should be strengthened to ensure children in detention get quality education while there and help with transition to their community schools. Congress should help ensure children who enter foster care or change placements remain in their same school or, if such placement is not in their best interest, promptly enroll in the school where they will be living.