ESSA-Title IV Block Grant:
What’s What for the Remainder of Fiscal Year 2017
By Myrna Mandlawitz, SSWAA Government Relations Director
As you probably heard on the news, Congress finally finished the funding decisions for the current year (Fiscal Year 2017, FY 2017), which goes through Sept. 30, 2017.
SSWAA and its many partners have been working hard on getting the full funding for the new ESSA, Title IV-A block grant — the one that allows activities for “Safe and healthy students,” “well-rounded education,” and education technology. The Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Program was eliminated under ESSA, so funding for school mental health is part of this block grant, should school districts choose to use the money for that purpose.
The law says Congress could put as much as $1.65 billion into this program, which was designed as a formula grant, i.e., money would go to every school district. ESSA also says 20% of the grant must be used for “safe and healthy,” 20% for “well-rounded,” and up to 15% of the remaining can be used for technology hardware.
What Congress has announced for FY2017: The funding level is set at $400 million (rather than the $1.65 billion!)…and states have the option of making these grants competitive to local school districts. In other words, not every district will necessarily get any money. Grants must be a minimum $10,000 and are for one year. And states must prioritize high-need school districts, taking into account geographical diversity (rural, urban, etc.). States will be subject to the percentage distribution as outlined above, and districts can apply for a grant for activities in buckets one, two, or all three. Not more than 25% for “technology infrastructure.”
Bottom line: If the state chooses the competitive option, some school districts may get decent-sized grants while a large number of districts will get nothing. If the state stays with the formula grant, most school districts will get a small award. However, it looks like the amount will not be enough to really do any significant programming, and of course will definitely not “buy” any personnel.
For more information, contact Myrna Mandlawitz, SSWAA Government Relations Director. We will be keeping you up to date, as more details become available. Our next goal is to try to get significantly more funding for Title IV for FY 2018 (begins Oct. 1, 2017 and funds School Year 2018-19).
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