This is not the first time that President Trump has completely eliminated Title IIA funds in his budget proposal. Yet I’m more upset this time and here’s why. Not only did he reduce to nothing the number of dollars dedicated to substantive professional learning and leadership support, he created a shiny distraction. His PD voucher program deflects attention from his bid to take away the dollars that ensure all educators have access to professional learning and support that helps them meet the needs of our most vulnerable students, and that all teachers and principals have opportunities to grow from novice to expert to school leader through mentoring, coaching, and collaboration.

The limited information we have about the voucher program indicates that the President proposes $200 million, or less than 10% of the support provided by the current $2.1 billion Title IIA program. The new program is described as one that gives teachers choice over their professional development. Even if our nation’s 3.2 million teachers each got a share, that would be $62.50. Consider how far that will go to support meaningful learning. The details are sketchy. There is also the inference that it will be a competitive program. Under that scenario, I can imagine that once again the teachers most in need of support are not the teachers with access to the resources to win such a competition. Title IIA is designed to support all educators in all contexts, which is just one reason I’m against the President’s current proposal.

The professional learning that has an impact on what teachers do and whether students learn isn’t piecemeal or isolated. Effective professional learning happens when districts and schools created systems where all educators have regularly scheduled time during the school day to learn, collaborate, and plan for powerful instruction. Such systems also provide teachers with high-quality instructional materials, classroom-based coaching and mentoring, and substitutes that enable peer observations and feedback.

The voucher program is a dangerous and inequitable proposition — let’s leave it in the dust. Instead, we’ll keep our attention moving forward on the Congressional budget proposals yet to come. For the past two years, despite the Administration’s attempt to eliminate Title IIA, Congress has made the right choice for students and communities by keeping the funds in the final budget. This is going to be a tough appropriations battle and we ask all educators to join us, as in past years, to demand Congress raise the spending caps and fully fund Title IIA.

Here’s why these funds are so critical:

  1. Title IIA is the only federal program directed primarily at professional development for teachers and principals in all school systems.
  2. In 2015, Congress approved a new definition of professional development, one that teachers have requested for years. The definition describes professional learning that will lead to better student outcomes, professional learning that is sustained, collaborative, and job-embedded.
  3. To support the need for high-quality professional development, Congress specified that federally funded professional development should be evidence based and asked that we do a much better job of reporting on impact of the dollars spent. Our educators are developing the expertise to understand the impact of their learning and to document it for themselves and other stakeholders.

In response to the persistent attacks by the Administration on Title IIA funding, educators have gotten engaged not only in rallying support for the funding but also in providing the evidence to show the impact of TitleIIA funds in states, districts, and classrooms. Educators are more deliberate about developing data collection protocols that will enable them to determine evidence and impact and identify where there are areas for improvement. More Learning Forward stakeholders are able to identify how they spend Title II dollars and more are able to share the impact of the investments. (See our recent webinar on Documenting Your Professional Learning Story to explore how educators are demonstrating their impact.)

Please join Learning Forward in compelling Congress to lift funding caps and invest fully in Title IIA. Gather your evidence and share your stories to inform Congress about the positive impact this investment has in your community with your students. Your voice matters.
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In honor of Public Schools Week, March 25-29, Learning Forward is hosting a #TitleIIA Twitter storm to let Congress and the President know that #TitleIIA funding is critical and must be fully funded. It is easy to get involved and we need you to participate all week long. Simply craft a tweet (for sample tweets click here) and include the hashtag #TitleIIA. You can include your members of Congress by adding their Twitter handles to the message. Their Twitter handles can be found at: Senate Twitter Handles and House Twitter Handles. And please mention @LearningForward in your tweets so we can retweet your messages and make all of the voices in support of Title IIA even louder.

Stephanie Hirsh retired in June 2019 after 31 years with Learning Forward, an international association of more than 13,000 educators committed to increasing student achievement through effective professional learning. Hirsh led the organization as its executive director for the last 13 years where she presented, published, and consulted on Learning Forward’s behalf across North America.