Background & Analysis

The Federal Education Budget Project’s background and analysis pages provide detailed information on federal PreK-12 and higher education programs and spending.

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In fiscal year 2014, over $14 billion was dedicated to Title I Grants to Local Educational Agencies, the largest NCLB program. Funding levels for selected NCLB programs from 2005 to present are shown below.

No Child Left Behind Major Programs
($ millions)
Program FY 2007 FY 2008 FY 2009* FY 2010 FY 2011 FY 2012 FY 2013 FY 2014
Title I Grants to Local Educational Agencies 12,838 13,899 14,492 14,492 14,442 14,516 13,760 14,385
Improving Teacher Quality State Grants 2,887 2,935 2,948 2,948 2,465 2,467 2,338 2,350
Impact Aid 1,228 1,241 1,265 1,138 1,274 1,291 1,224 1,289
21st Century Community Learning Centers 1,081 1,131 1,131 1,166 1,154 1,152 1,092 1,149
English Language Acquisition 669 700 730 750 734 732 694 723
Safe and Drug--Free Schools and Communities, State Grants 577 513 295 -- -- -- -- --
School Improvement Grants 125 491 546 546 535 534 506 506
State Assessments 408 409 411 411 390 389 369 378
Reading First State Grants 1,029 393 -- -- -- -- -- --
Education Technology State Grants 272 267 270 100 -- -- -- --
Math and Science Partnerships 182 179 179 180 175 150 142 150
Teacher Incentive Fund 200 97 97 400 399 299 284 289
*Excludes economic stimulus funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Source: U.S. Department of Education

"Full Funding": Authorization vs. Appropriation

Education advocacy groups often criticize Congress and the President for not "fully funding" NCLB programs, particularly Title I, during the appropriations process. They define "full funding" using the authorization levels stated in the original NCLB legislation. Authorization levels in the legislation set the maximum amount at which Congress may fund a program in each year.

In contrast, appropriation levels reflect the amount of money Congress actually spends on a program. The law does not require the federal government to appropriate funds at the maximum authorized levels. In fact, Congress has never appropriated the maximum authorized funding level for Title I since NCLB was enacted in 2002. This is a common practice for legislation that includes authorized levels.

Congress authorized specific five-year funding levels for five of the 45 authorized NCLB programs, totaling $28.9 billion for fiscal year 2007 ($25 billion for Title I, Part A). The other 40 programs were authorized at specific amounts for the initial year of funding and at "such sums as may be necessary" for following years through 2007. Assuming a frozen level of funding for these 40 programs, the total authorized level for NCLB is commonly cited at $39.4 billion in fiscal year 2007.

The Title I, Part A grant program is the largest source of NCLB funding for school districts and is one of the five programs authorized at specific levels through fiscal year 2007. (In 2008, Congress voted to extend the 2007 authorization level into 2008, but has not done so since.) In the past, most reauthorizations of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act have not included specific year by year authorization levels. Instead, the legislation has set an authorized funding level for the first year and "such sums as may be necessary" for succeeding years.

Source: Elementary and Secondary Education Act, U.S. Dept. of Education Budget Tables

Since 2001, traditional federal appropriations for Title I have remained fairly flat, while the authorized levels in the legislation increase by $2 billion to $2.5 billion each year. As a result, Title I appropriations have become a smaller and smaller percentage of the authorized levels since NCLB's passage-from 76% of the authorized level in Fiscal Year 2002 to 56% of the authorized level in fiscal year 2008, the last year for which an authorization level was provided by the law. Additionally, Title I funds were sequestered in fiscal year 2013, as triggered by the Budget Control Act of 2011. That meant funding for Title I grants dropped midyear for schools, though many districts had additional time to plan because most funding for the program comes through advance appropriations.

"Unfunded Mandates"

Because states are required to fulfill extensive accountability requirements to receive NCLB funding, they have argued, unsuccessfully, that NCLB is an "unfunded mandate." For example, the state of Connecticut sued the federal government in 2005 for allegedly requiring the state to spend millions of state dollars on additional NCLB testing. A federal judge dismissed Connecticut's lawsuit on jurisdictional grounds, effectively ending the state's challenge.

However, NCLB does not mandate that states participate in the program. All requirements are a condition of funds. While a state may struggle financially without federal education funding, it could choose to opt out of NCLB and the requirements it includes. As a result, it is inaccurate to refer to NCLB as an "unfunded mandate." The law's requirements only apply to those states that voluntarily elect to participate.

"Under-funding" and NCLB

When NCLB was passed, the Department of Education assured states that federal funding would cover a significant portion of the costs associated with the law's new requirements. These new costs-for test administration, data collection, and school improvement reforms-have been significant. States often claim that NCLB is "under-funded" due to evidence that the federal government has not adequately supported these implementation costs. A Government Accountability Office report estimated the additional implementation expenditures states would see from 2002-2008, which varied depending on the type of test states used.

Source: Government Accountability Office, 2003

Several state legislatures have requested estimates of the total cost of fully implementing NCLB and reaching the legislation's goal of 100 percent proficiency by 2014 in their state. In Ohio, for example, a study estimated that the state would have to spend about $1.5 billion more on education each year to meet NCLB's additional accountability requirements and achievement goals.

Published Apr 24 2014 16:07