Press Release

Written Testimony for the Record

On behalf of John B. King Jr.
President and CEO
The Education Trust

Before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies

On behalf of The Education Trust, an organization dedicated to closing long-standing gaps in opportunity and achievement separating students from low-income backgrounds and students of color from their peers, thank you for the opportunity to present testimony on the FY21 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (L-HHS-ED) Appropriations bill. We request that the L-HHS-ED bill receive its proportional share of the discretionary increase in the FY21 budget caps to ensure that essential education programs have the resources they need.

While there are many programs under your jurisdiction that are critical to advancing equity, for FY21, The Education Trust is focused on the following: strengthening the Pell Grant program by increasing the maximum award $156 to keep pace with inflation, at a minimum; supporting teachers and school leaders by level funding ESSA’s Title II-A ($2.13B), the Teacher and School Leader Incentive Program ($200M), the Supporting Effective Educator Development Program ($80M), HEA’s Title II’s Teacher Quality Partnership grants ($50M); and restoring funding to the School Leader Recruitment and Support Program ($14.5M). Finally, we request that the Augustus Hawkins Centers, which support enhanced educator preparation for teaching candidates at HBCUs and MSIs, receive $40M in funding for FY21. We are encouraged by the slight increase in funding levels provided by the House Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (L-HHS-ED) last appropriations cycle for some of these initiatives and urge
continued support for these critical programs.

Strengthening the Pell Grant Program

The Pell Grant program is the cornerstone of federal financial aid. Created in 1972 as the Basic Educational Opportunity Grant, the program benefits over 7 million students annually and continues to serve as the primary federal effort to open the door to college for students from low income backgrounds. Over one-third of White students, two-thirds of Black students, and half of Latino students rely on Pell Grants every year. Pell Grant dollars are well-targeted to those in need: 83 percent of Pell recipients come from families with annual incomes at or below $40,000, including 44 percent with annual family incomes at or below $15,000.

Increasing the Maximum Award

The Pell Grant program’s impact is shrinking as the maximum award has failed to keep pace with the rapidly rising cost of college. The purchasing power of the Pell Grant has dropped dramatically since the program’s inception. In 1980, the maximum Pell Grant award covered 77 percent of the cost of attendance at a public university. Today, it covers just over 28 percent, the lowest portion in over 40 years. If the maximum award continues to stagnate, the grant will cover just one-fifth of college costs in 10 years.

We very much appreciate previous increases to the maximum award in prior appropriations bills, and we respectfully request that you continue to increase the maximum award amount. For FY21, Congress should, at minimum, increase the maximum award by $156 to $6,501 to keep pace with inflation. We also ask Congress to use HEA reauthorization to enact an ambitious plan to reverse the downward trend of Pell’s purchasing power through scheduled funding increases and expansion of the mandatory funding stream, ensuring that the maximum Pell award covers at least half of the cost of attendance at a public four-year institution.

Supporting Teachers and School Leaders

Research and experience show the powerful impact that teachers and school leaders have on student learning. ESSA’s Title II program provides grants to states and districts that can be used to invest in and develop the education profession. These funds can be used to, among other things, address inequities in access to effective teachers and school leaders, provide professional development, and improve teacher recruitment and retention. States and districts can also apply for additional competitive grant dollars for programs targeted at specific, evidence-based strategies for improving teacher and school leader effectiveness and increasing educator diversity. Additionally, HEA’s Title II Teacher Quality Partnership grants (TQP), awarded to partnerships of high-need districts and teacher preparation programs at institutions of higher education, can be used to recruit underrepresented populations to the teaching profession. As Ed Trust’s work continues to demonstrate the positive impact that diverse teachers and school leaders of color can have on the academic achievement of both students of color and White students, we remain supportive of federal dollars to increase and bolster the diversity of the educator pipeline.

Maintain funding for ESSA Title II-A (Supporting Effective Instruction), the Teacher and School Leader Incentive Program (TSLIP), the Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) program, and HEA Title II Teacher Quality Partnership (TQP) grants

Despite the nationwide attention to the need to invest in educators, the President’s FY21 budget request again called for the elimination via block grant of the Title II-A grant, the SEED program, the TSLIP and HEA’s Title II Teacher Quality Partnership grants. We appreciate Congress’ prior rejection of similar requests in the FY19 omnibus appropriations bill.

At a minimum, in FY20, Congress should continue funding Title II-A, TSLIP, SEED, and TQP at FY20 levels: $2.13B, $200M, $80M, and $50M, respectively.

Fund the Augustus Hawkins Centers of Excellence Grant Program

Research has shown that students of color benefit tremendously from having teachers of color, particularly one of the same racial background: they are less likely to be chronically absent or suspended from school, more likely to be recommended for gifted and talented programs, and low-income Black students who have a Black teacher for at least one year in elementary school are less likely to drop out of high school and more likely to consider college. And while students of color make up the majority of students in public schools, the diversity gap for teachers of color still exists across every state.

The nationwide impact of HBCUs, MSIs, HSIs, and TCUs on producing teachers of color cannot be overstated. HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs, collectively, award only 11% of the nation’s bachelor’s degrees in education, yet they produce more than 50% of the bachelor’s degrees earned in education by Hispanic, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander students. HBCUs graduate approximately 50% of the nation’s African American teachers with bachelor’s degrees. HSIs prepare 90% of Hispanic teachers, and along with other MSIs, constitute a vital pipeline to maintain diversity among our nation’s teachers.

In light of the importance of these institutions and the increased needs they experience as result of graduating an outsized portion of the nation’s teachers of color, we request that the Augustus Hawkins Centers of Excellence Grant program receive funding for the first time since its creation in the bipartisan Higher Education Act of 2008. The program would provide critical funding these key institutions to provide increased and enhanced clinical experience and increased financial aid to prospective teachers of color, who face higher burdens in college access and affordability than their White peers.

For FY21, Congress should fund the Augustus Hawkins Centers of Excellence Grant Program at $40M.

Restore Funding for the School Leader Recruitment and Support Program

Landmark research funded by the Wallace Foundation has found “virtually no documented instances of troubled schools being turned around without intervention by a powerful leader,” and the School Leader Recruitment and Support Program is the only federal program specifically focused on investing in evidence-based, locally driven strategies to strengthen school leadership in high-need schools. recently concluded seven-year study of school districts that created pipelines to develop school leaders saw increasing gains in student achievement over time, showing how a sustained initiative can demonstrate positive effects on student learning.

During the past decade, we have learned a lot about what works in education leadership—lessons made possible, in part, by federal investments in the School Leader Program (the previous iteration of the SLRSP). There is still a great deal of work to do, especially when it comes to identifying and efficiently preparing effective turnaround leaders, as well as sustainably supporting them to accelerate academic achievement, close gaps, and maintain improvement over time for all students and in every community. The SLRSP is a key lever for seeding the next generation of effective school leader development programs, promoting equity, advancing ongoing innovation, and sharing cutting-edge lessons on transformational leadership with the broader field.

For FY21, Congress should restore funding for the School Leader Recruitment and Support Program to $14.5M, its FY17 appropriation level.

Thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony. The Education Trust looks forward to working with Congress to allocate federal funds in a way that addresses the critical equity gaps that our nation’s students from low-income backgrounds and students of color continue to face. We are happy to respond to any questions or concerns that you may have on these topics.