Budget for 2014 is a mixed bag for schools

The School Improvement Grants program will get $506 million, essentially the same as last year—but Congress expanded the length of the grants from three to five years, to give recipients more time to effect changes.

Lawmakers also added two more options to the turnaround models that districts can adopt under the program. One is a “whole-school reform” model that lets school leaders work with an outside partner with proven experience in turning around schools. The other option lets school leaders adopt any improvement strategy that wins the approval of the Education Department.

Education groups reacted to the budget with measured enthusiasm.

“This legislation is a step in the right direction, and it is good to see House and Senate Democrats and Republicans come together on a deal that, while not perfect, is good,” said the American Association of School Administrators in a statement.

“This agreement is not everything we want, but it is a first step toward restoring a functional government,” the American Federation of Teachers noted.

The funding for education programs was part of a $1.1 trillion government-wide spending bill. The Senate on Jan. 16 voted 72-26 for the measure, which cleared the House a little more than 24 hours earlier on a similarly lopsided vote. President Obama signed the bill into law on Jan. 17.

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