Three Things School Leaders Need to Know About the Build Back Better Act

Investments in school leadership have never been more important. Read more about how the Build Back Better Act could support both current and future education leaders.
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Brenda Calderon

By now you’ve probably heard that Congress is working on a major bill that will impact education for the years to come. Touted on the campaign trail, President Biden promised the American people a number of reforms including free community college, universal pre-K, and significant investments in K-12 schools. These proposed investments—best known as the American Families Plan—became the blueprint for the Build Back Better Act.

We know great leaders build great schools. Funding to support school principals, as well as aspiring educational leaders, could not be more important at this moment in time, especially given the ongoing stress and demands related to the pandemic. The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) recently released a survey on principal retention, stating that 38% of school principals are planning to leave the profession within the next three years. We hope to reverse that trend.

Earlier this year, New Leaders worked with several of our education equity partners—American Federation of School Administrators (AFSA), Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), Learning Forward, National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP)—to issue a joint policy brief outlining key priorities and policy recommendations to shape the American Families Plan. Among them, we called for significant investments in school leadership.

How does the Build Back Better Act support school leaders?

Included in the Build Back Better Act are a number of proposed programs that, if passed, will mean great news for existing school principals and aspiring school leaders. Here are three specific proposals that specifically invest in education leadership:

$112 million proposed for the School Leader Recruitment and Support Program (SLRSP). SLRSP is the only federal program specifically focused on investing in evidence-based, locally-driven strategies to strengthen school leadership in high-need schools. This competitive grant program funds the recruitment, preparation, placement, support, and retention of effective school leaders in high-need schools. If funded at this level, it would be the largest direct federal investment in school principals, ever.

$113 million available for Grow Your Own programs to address teacher or school leader shortages in high-need areas and also encourage increased diversity in the education workforce. One of the best places to recruit the next generation of teachers and school leaders is directly from their home communities. This grant focuses on doing just that and offering training such as school-based clinical experiences for school leaders to work in the districts where they receive training. There is also specific language in the proposal about recruiting candidates from diverse backgrounds.

$198 million in funding for the Augustus Hawkins Centers of Excellence which would allow for increased clinical learning at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority Serving Institutions (MSI) for aspiring teachers and principals. Specifically, this funding is designed to support programs that provide principal mentoring from exemplary principals and support for principals during their first three years of employment as principals.

What happens next in Congress?

As of now, both the House and Senate have released their proposals. On November 19, 2021, the House passed their version of the Build Back Better Act. However, in the Senate, the bill faces a greater uphill battle where major provisions in the bill will have to meet the “Byrd rule.” This provision makes it difficult to introduce any “extraneous” proposals when discussing domestic policy. Senators must defend all parts of this proposal to be able to pass the budget with a simple majority, which could mean it could pass without any Republican support.  

Senator Schumer, the lead Democrat on the Senate, is pushing for the passage before Congress takes a holiday break, but the fate of the bill remains to be determined.

What can you do?

There are plenty of ways our New Leaders community can be involved in advocating for your priorities in policy. To find ways to share your feedback with Congress or with the Department of Education, reach out to

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Brenda Calderon

Brenda Calderon

Brenda Calderon leads the federal policy portfolio for New Leaders. Prior to this role, she served as a Program Officer with the U.S. Department of Education where she oversaw millions of dollars in state grants to support schools in communities with lower incomes, advance services for English learners, and improve teacher professional development. Brenda also worked as a Senior Education Policy Analyst at UnidosUS where she was the lead negotiator for the organization during the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, now the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015.

Brenda Calderon

Brenda Calderon

Brenda Calderon

Brenda Calderon

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