Expanded Learning Time in President Obama’s FY15 Budget

The Administration’s FY 2015 budget reaffirms President Obama’s and Secretary Duncan's deep commitment to expanded learning time (ELT) as a key reform strategy to support students from high-poverty communities prepare for the future. The budget would support ELT schools throughout its K-12 programs, including ESEA’s existing School Improvement Grants (SIG) and the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC) program. Furthermore, expanding learning time funding is also available in three new programs: Race to the Top – Equity and Opportunity, High School Redesign, and the new Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence, and Collaborative Teaching (RESPECT) initiative.

The School Improvement Grant program, renamed School Turnaround Grants, was level-funded at $506 million. Grants are guaranteed for three years, but districts can receive an additional two years of funding if their schools are showing improvement. The lowest five percent of schools would still have to use one of the four existing SIG reform models – Transformation, Turnaround, Restart, or Closure. Both the Transformation and Turnaround models require schools to increase instructional time.

The president’s budget proposal would also level-fund the CCLC program at $1.149 billion, and it would build on the current ESEA Flexibility Waiver system that allows states to include ELT schools as an option for districts to choose along with after school, before school, and summer learning programs.  Currently, 25 states have this flexibility for ELT and the president’s proposal would provide the option to all states and districts. Funds could also be used to provide teachers the time they need to collaborate, plan, and engage in professional development as part of an expanded learning time program.

The president’s FY 2015 budget introduced three new programs that would also allow schools and districts to increase learning time and provide time for teacher collaboration and professional development: Race to the Top – Equity and Opportunity, High School Redesign, and RESPECT.  The Race to the Top – Equity and Opportunity program is a competitive grant program that would be funded at $300 million with the goal of improving academic achievement in the nation’s highest poverty schools. Grantees would be required to implement data systems that provide information on school finances, teacher and principal effectiveness, and academic achievement, as well as attract and retain effective teachers and leaders in high-need schools. Grantees would also use funds for other activities that can increase educational opportunity and reduce achievement gaps, such as expanded learning time.

The High School Redesign program is a competitive grants program funded at $150 million designed to prepare students for college and careers though career-related experiences, personalized learning and project-based learning. High schools use the grants to redesign their school in innovative ways, including strategically using learning time in more meaningful ways, such as technology-based teaching, a redesigned school day or calendar, or competency-based progressions.

Finally, the Recognizing Education Success, Professional Excellence, and Collaborative Teaching (RESPECT) program, a one-time $5 billion investment, would provide competitive grants to states and districts to address educators’ needs.These needs might include improving teacher and principal preparation, providing career ladders and other opportunities for educators to take on leadership roles, and creating conditions in schools that support effective teaching, including great school leadership and time for collaboration. RESPECT funds could go towards helping schools redesign the school day, week, and year to allow for increased planning and collaboration time for educators, a key element of high-quality expanded learning time schools.