Flexibility to Ease Requirements and Mandates

Unnecessary or unproductive requirements and mandates can place a sizeable burden on states and districts and can prevent them from removing barriers that improve efficiency and effectiveness. Nonessential reporting requirements and inflexible funding streams, for example, can result in lost time and resources. Assessing reporting requirements to streamline or automate them, reviewing and merging categorical funding streams, and better utilizing federal flexibility can ease the burden and enable states and districts to allocate resources in ways that will meet local education needs.

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Ease reporting requirements

  • Louisiana – In June 2010, the state enacted the Red Tape Reduction Law, which provides local school districts greater flexibility in meeting state regulations and rules. Under the law, districts can apply for state waivers to ease requirements regarding class size, student-teacher ratios, instructional time, and other laws, regulations, and policies. Although the law aims to provide districts with relief, some have criticized it as placing an additional burden on districts. It may be useful to examine the experience with this law to apply “lessons learned” to the circumstances in other states, and consider possible approaches to reduce district mandates. 

Align incentives: Funding formulas often hinder the alignment of interests and resources. Embedded in these formulas are categorical funding streams that support specific budgetary line items and prevent the shifting of categorical funds. Reviewing state formulas to create incentives that reduce costs and better align interests with resources can help to improve productivity. As districts and states move toward performance-based funding structures, they may consider weighted student funding to ensure that all students are well served and to prevent misalignments between priorities and spending.

  • Cincinnati Public School’s Schoolwide Building Program Fund Cincinnati is one of few districts that takes advantage of the flexibility under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that enables high-poverty Title I elementary schools to consolidate federal, state, and local education funds in a schoolwide program. Consolidating funds allows schools to design a schoolwide educational program to meet the needs of all students, and then determine how the plan will be funded by the consolidated pool of resources. Additional link here and here.

Utilize Federal Flexibility

  • Federal flexibility in current law, particularly the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), can be utilized to help states meet the local needs of their students. The Department recently highlighted four key flexibility provisions that states and districts could take advantage of: consolidation of state and district administrative funds to build state and local capacity; consolidation of federal, state, and local education funds to promote comprehensive reforms at the schoolwide level; transferring of funds among programs to meet state and local needs; and additional flexibility for rural districts. More leaders could take advantage of these provisions to ease burdens and support enhanced productivity.

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