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States Sit on 5.7 Billion in Federal Education Funds
by Suzanne Whitney, Research Editor, Wrightslaw

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We continue to hear complaints that states and school districts cannot afford to implement the programs required by No Child Left Behind - and that all federal education programs are unfunded or underfunded.

Two weeks ago, we learned that states returned millions in federal education funds to the U.S. Treasury last year, and did not spend these funds on education.
(Read States Send Millions Back to Feds)

Now we learn that states are sitting on 5.7 billion dollars in federal education funds, including 1.7 billion for special education. Every state has millions of unspent federal education dollars from 2000-2002.

Federal Program
Education for the Disadvantaged (Title I)
$1.9 billion
Special Education
$1.7 billion
School Improvement Programs
$1.7 billion
Vocational and Adult Education
$292 million
English Language Acquisition
$110 million
Impact Aid
$14 million
Total Funds Not Spent
$5.7 billion

Source: U.S. Department of Education Budget Services Office

State Comparisons
Since states are complaining about the "burden" of implementing No Child Left Behind, we were curious to learn which states had the greatest surplus of unspent federal funds.

Every state has millions of unspent federal education dollars from 2000-2002.

New York ranks #1 with $689 million in unspent federal funds (12% of their allotment for 2000-2002)
California ranks #2 with $671 million in unspent funds (7.5 percent of their allotment)
Texas is in 3rd place with $412 million (7 percent of their allotment)
Ohio is sitting on $409 million (16 percent of their 2000-2002 allotment).

Arkansas is in last place
- it used all but 1.7% ($12 million) of its funds.

How does your state rank? Are you curious? Check the Chart of Unspent Federal Funds by State

What about the Children?
Thousands of schools are designated as "schools in need of improvement."

While states hire lobbyists to seek changes in No Child Left Behind, millions of children are not learning to read, spell or do math at grade level. (Graphs of student proficiency in reading, math, science)

Budgeting & Accounting
While these accounting practices may not be illegal, thoughtful planning and budgeting could make this money available sooner. School districts may need to allocate funds differently and hire more highly qualified teachers (and fewer administrators).

How many millions in unspent education funds will the states return to the U. S. treasury next year?

Game Plan
If you think your state needs to do a better job with the funds available to them, talk to the leaders and policymakers in your state. (Nothing will change until you do! If you belong to a parent group or disabilities organization, make sure your state leaders hear from your group.)

Ask your state leaders to use their unspent millions on research-based educational sservices for children, high-quality professional development programs for teachers, improved working conditions, and safe schools.


Link to Your State Contacts

NCLB Information Directories

Back to Top

Meet Sue Whitney

Sue Whitney of Manchester, New Hampshire, works with families as a special education advocate and is the research editor for Wrightslaw.

Doing Your Homework, Suzanne Whitney gives savvy advice about reading, research based instruction, and creative strategies for using education standards to advocate for children and to improve public schools.

Her articles have been reprinted by,,, The Beacon: Journal of Special Education Law and Practice, the Schafer Autism Report, and have been used in CLE presentations to attorneys.

Sue is the co-author of Wrightslaw: No Child Left Behind (ISBN: 978-1-892320-12-4) that was published by Harbor House Law Press, Inc.

She also served on New Hampshire's Special Education State Advisory Committee on the Education of Students/Children with Disabilities (SAC).

Sue Whitney's bio.

Copyright © 2002-2022 by Suzanne Whitney.

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