Education is a powerful force for advancing opportunity, prosperity, and growth. It is also a key predictor of future earnings and a significant determinant of a range of other measures of well-being. Following the recent enactment of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), many observers have agreed that forward-thinking policies are needed to build upon that legislation and further advance equal opportunity for all students. On March 28, The Hamilton Project at Brookings hosted a policy forum exploring options for strengthening student learning through innovation and flexibility, with a focus on three new Hamilton Project papers.
Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act distributes over $14 billion in federal funds to school districts to help disadvantaged students. Over its 50-year history, the aid formulas have become more complex, and the perceived restrictions on permissible uses of the funds have limited the ways that schools use the additional resources. The program is widely perceived as funding ineffective practices at the local level, and spreading federal funds too thinly. Gordon proposes reforms to make the Title I formula more transparent, streamlined and progressive by distributing additional resources to the neediest areas. In addition, she suggests improvements in federal guidance and fiscal compliance outreach efforts so that local districts understand the flexibility they have to spend the resources effectively.