Civil and Human Rights Groups Urge Federal Action on Long-Standing School Funding Inequities
WASHINGTON – The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of more than 200 national civil rights groups, published a new legal analysis today underscoring the Department of Education’s authority to correct long-standing school funding inequities. In separate comments responding to the Department’s draft “supplement-not-supplant” rule, The Leadership Conference was joined by 25 civil rights and education partner organizations calling the robust enforcement of the law’s requirement “critical to a fair, equitable and high-quality education, closing educational achievement gaps and the successful implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).”
The groups are all in support of the long-standing mandate that the federal funding for low-income schools made possible by ESSA cannot be used as an excuse to underfund these schools with local dollars. The supplement-not-supplant (SNS) rule from the Department of Education would enforce this mandate in ESSA.
“Without clarity in regulations for the oversight of this provision of the law…low-income students will be deprived of the supports and services they need and deserve,” according to the groups’ comment letter to the Department. “The Department has both the authority and the responsibility to ensure that this provision is properly implemented and we urge a final rule that will help states to effectuate the purpose of this provision of the law.”
The comments were bolstered by a separate legal analysis provided by WilmerHale that determined the Department’s earlier proposal to advance this policy in the negotiated rulemaking process “not only is legally permissible as a reasonable interpretation of an ambiguous statute, but also is wholly consistent with the text and purpose of the revised SNS requirement.”
In seeking to put the matter to rest and focus attention on the egregious underfunding of high-poverty schools, Leadership Conference President and CEO Wade Henderson said, “This analysis makes clear that the issue was never about legal authority – the issue has been and will be whether we advance equity and fairness for low-income students or not.”