Feds: Poor Schools Don’t Receive the Funds They Deserve

Schools in low-income districts are being shortchanged because across the country as boards are not distributing their state and local funds proportionally, says a new report by the U.S. Department of Education.

The report looks at 2008-09 school-level expenditures and shows that current system of funding leaves 40 percent of schools that receive federal Title I money in high-poverty schools with fewer resources than the schools of their wealthier peers.

“Educators across the country understand that low-income students need extra support and resources to succeed, but in far too many places policies for assigning teachers and allocating resources are perpetuating the problem rather than solving it,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said.

“The good news in this report is that it is feasible for districts to address this problem and it will have a significant impact on educational opportunities for our nation’s poorest children.”

The Department of Education also found that to equal spending between wealthier and low-income schools would cost only about 1 percent of the average district’s total spending. These extra resources would make a big impact, meaning an increase of between 4 percent and 15 percent to the budget for schools that serve high numbers of students who live in poverty.

The Title I program is designed to provide extra resources to high-poverty schools to help them meet the greater challenges of educating at-risk students, and part of this provision means that schools receive “comparability of services” from state and local funds, so that federal funds don’t have to supplement this and can be used to serve their intended purpose.

Russlynn Ali, assistant secretary for civil rights, said that this analysis shows that closing the comparability loophole is within reach:

“Transparency on resource allocation within school districts is critical to ensuring every child has access to the same educational opportunities. These new data highlight that the Title I comparability provision is broken and has failed to provide access to equitable resources, and that it is possible to fix it.”

Obama’s Blueprint for Reform of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act proposes a revision of Title I provision to ensure that state and local funding levels are distributed equitably between schools.

The bill to reauthorize ESEA also included language to reform Title I comparability.