Department of Education Announces No New “Supplement, Not Supplant” Rules

department of education

On Wednesday, January 18th, the U.S. Department of Education announced that it was scrapping its attempt to publish final rules regarding “supplement, not supplant” for ESSA. As federal education dollars are meant to supplement, not replace, existing state and local dollars for public education, “supplement, not supplant” rules provide the “guard rails” used by states and school districts to determine if they are using the federal dollars appropriately. Republicans in Congress had signaled concern that the draft rules issued by the Obama administration in 2016 created too many barriers to the use of the ESSA federal education dollars instead of embracing the flexibility Congress sought to create under ESSA.  Civil rights groups and Democrats, on the other hand, felt that the rules may not have been strong enough to maintain the supplementary nature of federal funds to help students most at risk in our public school systems.

NAfME Rules and RegsWhile many in Congress are celebrating the end to this particular round of “supplement, not supplant” rules, schools, districts and states will be left without guidance on the appropriate use of the funds until the new administration signals how they intend to monitor the use of these federal dollars – either with a new rule, or without.

NAfME will be expressing concern to the incoming administration as well as to Congress that schools, districts and states may simply continue to use their federal education dollars the way they did under NCLB until “supplement, not supplant” is clarified. Without this guidance, we are concerned that the flexibility inherent in the new law, including the ability of these federal education funds to support music education, will not be implemented locally until schools feel comfortable that it’s safe to do so. Not having clear direction from the Department of Education means further delays to students and teachers enjoying the flexibility which Congress intended.

Lynn Tuttle, Director of Content & Policy, Center for Advocacy, Policy, and Constituency Engagement, January 24, 2016. © National Association for Music Education (