WASHINGTON, DC—Today, more than 150 school district superintendents from nearly forty states urged the U.S. Congress to fully fund the Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) grant program. Created under the Every Student Succeeds Act, SSAE grants support three areas of student learning: (1) a well-rounded education for students; (2) a safe and healthy school climate; and (3) the effective use of schoolwide technology.
Although the program is eligible to receive up to $1.65 billion, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee has approved $1 billion for the program while a Senate appropriations subcommittee would commit only $300 million. Appropriations negotiations are still ongoing.
In a letter to appropriators, the superintendents write that fully funding the program would allow them to create classrooms where all students have access to technology and the learning opportunities it affords. Conversely, underfunding the program could spread the program too thin, leading to difficult choices between equally important priorities, especially because districts receiving less than $30,000 under SSAE can allocate the entire grant to a single area of student learning.
“Forcing districts to sacrifice funding in any of the three areas of student learning undermines the intent, efficacy, and flexibility of this important grant program,” the superintendents write. “Failure to authorize [SSAE] at the full amount could … place districts in a compromising position of having to choose between investing in equally important needs, such as Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate course work or technology-driven professional development,” the superintendents write.
The superintendents who signed the letter are among the more than 3,100 superintendents nationwide who have signed the Future Ready Schools®(FRS) district pledge to personalize learning for students using effective digital learning strategies. FRS is a project of the Alliance for Excellent Education that helps school districts develop the human and technological capacity needed to personalize student learning and prepare students for college, a career, and citizenship.
“FRS districts understand that technology, when implemented properly, can produce significant gains in academic achievement and boost engagement, particularly for traditionally underserved students and their communities,” the letter reads. “However, the use of technology in the classroom is only effective when schools and educators are provided with appropriate support for implementation. This includes funding for professional development opportunities, investing in schools’ technological capacity and infrastructure, and combatting the ‘digital divide’ between students from low-income families and their more affluent peers.”
Key legislators have expressed bipartisan support for the program. Last year, two key architects of the Every Student Succeeds Act, former House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline and U.S. Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA), the committee’s top Democrat, sent a letter to the leadership of the House Appropriations Committee urging appropriators to fully fund the program. Additionally, Senate education committee chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) expressed support for the program last month.
The Alliance for Excellent Education is a Washington, DC–based national policy, practice, and advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring that all students, particularly those traditionally underserved, graduate from high school ready for success in college, a career, and citizenship. www.all4ed.org