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Legislative Updates

As the leading voice for magnet schools in the nation, Magnet Schools of America represents your interests before Congress, the White House, and federal agencies such as the U.S. Department of Education. In addition, MSA closely monitors and analyzes emerging policy issues that impact magnet schools and communicates this information to our members.

Education Policy Blog

For more in-depth analysis of pending legislation and other education policy matters, please visit our Inside Scoop Policy Blog.

Magnet School Funding and Appropriations

On January 22, 2018 the U.S. Congress passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the federal government including the U.S. Department of Education at last fiscal year’s level until February 8, 2018. Both chambers of Congress have passed or introduced legislation to fund the government for the current fiscal year that began on October 1, 2017. Congressional leaders and the White House, however, have not been able to complete a final omnibus appropriations bill because of discrepancies over funding levels for the government and other non-budget related issues, such as an unresolved dispute over whether or not to provide a path to citizenship for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA recipients.

Last September, the House passed an FY 2018 omnibus appropriations bill that included all 12 government appropriations bills and cut funding for the U.S. Department of Education by $2.2 billion. This bill did include $96 million for the Magnet Schools Assistance Program, which is a $1 million cut from the previous fiscal year. During the consideration of this bill in the U.S. House of Representatives, Congressman Joe Courtney (D-CT) introduced an amendment to restore this magnet school funding, but ultimately it failed by a close margin of only eight votes. MSA was encouraged that 19 Republicans voted in support of the amendment despite their own party’s opposition to the measure.

Rising to oppose the amendment, the Chairman of the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee, Tom Cole stated, “His subcommittee was given a limited budget to work with and the Magnet Schools Assistance Program was funded at the level requested by the president – $96 million.” He added, “I look forward to working to restore the small cut to the program as the overall budget enters the final stages of negotiations between the House and Senate.”

The Senate has not yet voted on any of the twelve annual appropriations bills that must be passed to fund the government. The Senate Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee did introduce legislation last year to fund the U.S. Department of Education. The bill would increase the department’s budget, excluding Pell Grants, by $29 million.  It also includes $97 million for the Magnet Schools Assistance Program, which is a higher allocation than the House passed bill.

Moving forward, Congress must agree on a final budget before the February 8 deadline or the government will be shut down for the second time this year. Negotiations are ongoing between congressional leaders, and another temporary CR is expected to be introduced to keep the government open and provide negotiators with additional time to reach an overall funding agreement.

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

In a substantial victory for magnet schools across the country, the President signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). This legislation will reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act also known as the No Child Left Behind Act and expand federal support for magnet programs. It reauthorizes the Magnet Schools Assistance Program (MSAP) and allows funding for MSAP to gradually grow from its current level of $91 million to $108 million in FY 2020. In addition, the ESSA will extend the length of the grant by two years and increase cumulative grant funding for successful magnet programs to $15 million.

Magnet Schools of America (MSA) Executive Director Todd Mann stated, “We are very pleased that Congress has acknowledged the value and need to expand magnet schools in our public education system. The continuation of this crucial support will help countless school districts create new innovative theme-based magnet programs that will prepare our students to live in diverse communities and flourish in an increasingly competitive workforce.”

In addition to reauthorizing the program, the ESSA makes several strategic changes to (MSAP):

  • It prioritizes the creation of magnet schools that promote socioeconomic integration and diversity. This acknowledges a wide body of research that shows that the socioeconomic composition of schools is the greatest factor affecting student achievement.
  • The ESSA will improve the timeliness of the MSAP grant by instructing the U.S. Department of Education to disperse its grant funds at the beginning of the summer. Typically, MSAP grants are awarded in late September after the start of the school year, which limits the ability of school districts to properly plan before first-year magnet implementation.
  • The bill will encourage school districts to work in coordination to break down barriers that sustain racial and socioeconomic isolation by creating interdistrict or regional magnet programs. This provision recognizes that the greatest amount of school segregation now occurs between school districts, rather than at the neighborhood level.
  • The act will also eliminate the prohibition against using MSAP funds for transportation purposes, as long as it is sustainable and these costs do not constitute a significant portion of grant funds. This will help school districts improve access to new thriving magnet schools for all students while ensuring that a vast majority of MSAP funds will support core grant activities.

The ESSA emerged after months of bipartisan negotiations and is the combination of two bills that were passed in the House and Senate over the summer. MSA is optimistic that by passing this legislation, America’s public schools will be able to move out of an era of testing and sanctioning. This action will also help stem the tide of growing resegregation occurring in our classrooms and ensure that all students are provided with equitable educational opportunities.

Here is a summary of the entire legislation released by the House Education and Workforce Committee and a statement released by MSA supporting the legislation.

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