Feds offer guidance on new Title IV funding

Feds offer guidance on new Title IV funding

(District of Columbia) A new federal block grant aimed at helping schools provide a “well-rounded education” can be used in a wide variety ways–from nutrition and health care, to music and foreign language instruction, according to new guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Education.

In constructing the Every Student Succeeds Act, Congress consolidated several small programs to create Title IV, otherwise known as the Student Support and Academic Enrichment program. As designed, funding under Title IV can be used by local educational agencies to:

  • Provide all students with access to a well-rounded education;
  • Improve school conditions for student learning; and
  • Improve the use of technology in order to improve the academic achievement and digital literacy of all students.

But in non-regulatory guidance released by the Education Department late last month, district managers will find Title IV money is highly flexible in support of the Congressional mandate.

Improving instruction in science, technology, engineering and mathematics is one option highlighted by federal officials.

Among the approved activities would be efforts to increase access for groups of underrepresented students to high-quality STEM courses; supporting participation in nonprofit competitions in robotics or math competitions, for example,; providing students hands-on learning and exposure to STEM, including through field-based and service learning; or supporting the creation and enhancement of STEM-focused specialty schools.

Arts and music are also emphasized, which includes dance, media arts, theater and visual arts. The new guide points to a clearinghouse developed by the Education Commission of the States–called ArtsEdSearch–which provide a database of research on programs and services in the many areas of artistic instruction.

The Title IV funding can also be used to support drop-out prevention. Federal officials highlighted a national nonprofit–Jobs for the Future–which has helped start or design nearly 250 early college schools that currently serve more than 75,000 students nationwide. JFF has seen increased graduation rates with 90 percent of early college students graduating high school, compared to the national rate of 78 percent, the report said.

ESSA authorized $1.65 billion for the new block grant, although Obama’s 2017 budget would only allocate $500 million for the program.

The award given to states is formula-driven, based on what they are already getting in Title I money. The subgrants to LEAs is also based on the Title I allotment.

For a district receiving more than $30,000 of Title IV money, federal law imposes three conditions:

  • At least 20 percent of funds for activities to support well-rounded educational opportunities (ESEA section 4107);
  • At least 20 percent of funds for activities to support safe and healthy students (ESEA section 4108); and
  • A portion of funds for activities to support effective use of technology (ESEA section 4109).

While local school boards are encouraged to look to leverage other state and federal grants to broaden well-rounded education services.

“For example, Title I, Part A (Title I) of the ESEA may be used to promote supportive school climates to reduce the use of exclusionary discipline practices in a Title I schoolwide program,” the guidance paper said. “Likewise, LEAs may use Title II funds to provide training for school personnel to address issues related to school conditions for student learning, such as safety, peer interaction, drug and alcohol abuse, and chronic absenteeism.”

The Education Department was also careful to point out that Title IV cannot be used to replace an existing funding source–that is, the long-standing federal prohibition on supplanting is in play here.