Monday, July 04, 2005

NCLB News: Title I Funding Declines For Many Districts

The New York Times is reporting (user id: vxg3312, passwd: sairam786) some bad news regarding Title I funding:
A new analysis of federal money that public schools receive for low-income students shows that a record number of the nation's school districts will receive less in the coming academic year than they did for the one just ended.

For the 2005-2006 school year, spending under the Department of Education's Title I program, which helps low-achieving children in high-poverty areas, is increasing by 3.2 percent, to $12.6 billion.

But because of population shifts, growing numbers of poor children, newer census data and complex formulas that determine how the money is divided, more than two-thirds of the districts, or 8,843, will not receive as much financing as before.

The analysis, based on data from the department, was made by the Center on Education Policy, an advocacy group for public schools. A similar study by the group last year showed that 55 percent of the schools would receive less money than they did in the previous year.

Title I provides the largest component of financing for No Child Left Behind.

The law that created No Child Left Behind requires that money allocated for Title I above a 2001 baseline of $8.76 billion come from two grants that contain specific qualification requirements. One requirement is that a school district is eligible for an increase only if more than 5 percent of its children are from low-income families. Comparisons are based on 2002 census figures, which are the latest available.

The report states that "districts close to this minimum often move in and out of eligibility for these grants, losing and gaining relative large sums from one year to the next."

Many of the nation's largest metropolitan areas have no trouble in exceeding the standard, and as a result are getting significant increases for the coming year. Los Angeles leads the list, with an increase of $53.4 million, followed by Philadelphia ($29.3 million), Chicago ($20.5 million) and New York City ($18.1 million).

The increases are attributable in part to another characteristic of the grants: they use weighted formulas to determine allocations so that per-student spending is higher in high-poverty districts than it is in lower-poverty districts.

But Title I money for school districts in many smaller communities is more vulnerable to short-term shifts in population, including an influx of immigrants, middle-income families seeking more affordable housing and high-income families weary of big-city living.

All Title I money is paid to the states, based on their number of poor children as measured against the national average, 6.04 percent for the coming year. The states distribute the money to their individual school districts. The analysis found that 41 states, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, would receive increases, led by Texas ($65.6 million), Pennsylvania ($45.1 million) and Florida ($33.1 million).

Leading the nine states that are losing money are New York ($15.2 million), Ohio ($13.3 million) and Oregon ($7.1 million). New York and Oregon are gaining poor children, but their totals are less than the national average. Ohio has fewer poor children than it did a year ago.
With all the emphasis on accountability, I'm frankly puzzled why any school district would be getting less funding from the federal government while that same government continues raising expectations for performance. Reduced funding only makes a tough goal to achieve that much harder to reach.

In education, less is rarely more.

As a practicing classroom teacher, I am greatly concerned that Washington doesn't seem to be doing much to insure that what funds are allocated are being spent in the best way possible in order to make a positive difference for students. In my home state of California, the educational bureaucracy continues to grow unchecked, while class sizes, (unchanged from pre-NCLB) continue to be among the largest in the country.

It's not unreasonable to suspect that the salaries of many of these new educrats are being paid by funding supplied under NCLB.

Why isn't anything being done about that?

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