ACE Amendment Voted Down But Issue Remains Alive

Last Updated: March 30, 2012

This article appeared in the March 2012 Rural Policy Matters.

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The House Education and Workforce Committee took up the All Children are Equal Act (ACE) Amendment to the Student Success Bill late last month, but it was ultimately defeated after members were called on to give a roll call vote.

ACE addresses inequities in the Title I funding formulas that currently provide less funding per eligible child in smaller districts than larger districts, regardless of overall poverty rates. Title I is the main funding mechanism of the federal education law and is intended to improve educational opportunity, especially for low-income children and youth. The Formula Fairness Campaign, headed by the Rural School and Community Trust, has led efforts to bring attention to the Title I inequities.

The Student Success Act, introduced by the Republican Leadership of the House Education and Workforce Committee, addresses other issues that are part of Title I, but it does not address the formulas.

In a highly partisan session, members were largely expected to vote along party lines, although support for ACE has been notably bipartisan. The final vote count was 16 yes, 22 no, one abstaining, and one not voting.

The partisan nature of the Student Success Act is part of the explanation for the vote. But during debate on the amendment, members of the Committee, including Ranking Democrat, California Congressman Miller himself, admitted the formula need an “adjustment” and that the merits of the issue needed to be addressed. Democrats mostly argued that since there was no hold harmless provision protecting the large district, there would be losers under ACE. They also argued there should be a “maintenance of effort” provision requiring states and districts to maintain state and local funding levels and not allow any increase in funding received due to ACE to justify state and local funding reductions.

The pressure on members was intense, and the vote means a delay in winning critical reforms to an inequitable system. But, this was a significant milestone, because for the first time in a very long time, rural education and funding equity were coupled in a serious debate. ACE supporters have noted that in a less partisan atmosphere, this amendment would have passed easily, with its support from both parties.

In a related development, Congressmen Glenn “GT” Thompson (R), who led the ACE effort with a commitment to bipartisanship, was recognized with a national award earlier this month. Thompson received the National PTA Congressional Voice for Children Award. Thompson was recognized for the award, along with U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island (D) during National PTA’s Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C. National PTA’s Congressional Voice for Children Award is given to two Members of Congress each year in recognition of outstanding leadership related to child and education advocacy.

Read more:

Formula Fairness Campaign Website:

Read additional support for Title I funding reform at Ed Money Watch, a program of the New America Foundation here:

Read more from the March 2012
Rural Policy Matters.