From Electronic Education Report, April 10, 2015
Funding for Title I, the largest elementary and secondary education program that funds support for low-achieving children especially in high-poverty schools, climbed in fiscal year 2014, ended Sept. 30, 2014, to $14.38 billion, up from $13.76 billion in fiscal 2013 when sequester budget cuts took effect.
The 50 school districts that receive the largest Title I allocations were scheduled to receive $3.67 billion of the grants allocated to local education agencies for fiscal year 2014, more than one-fourth of the total funding and up 4.6% from the $3.51 billion allocated to the 50 largest recipients in fiscal 2013.
The top three recipients-New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago-were projected to receive $1.33 billion, or 9.2% of total fiscal 2014 funding. Among the 50 districts receiving the largest Title I allocations, seven are located in Florida, six in Texas and five in California.
Title I finances the additional academic support and learning opportunities viewed as necessary to help disadvantaged students progress along with their classmates. Title I is an area of interest to educational publishers because, although the program is used mainly to pay educator salaries, schools also spend the funds on professional development, educational materials, after-school programs and specialized instruction. A number of educational technology companies, particularly those with literacy and intervention solutions cite the importance of federal funding, like Title I and IDEA, to their customers.
Title I money is paid to states and territories that distribute it to individual school districts. School districts have two years to spend the funds.
Funding by district for fiscal 2015 has not been made available yet by the Department of Education.
Stretched Despite Increases
Even with overall Title I funding up, rising number of low-income students is forcing districts to rethink how they allocate dollars among their schools. For example, Wake County (NC) has for 10 years provided Title I funding to schools where 35% of students are eligible for subsidized lunch. Moving forward, the cutoff will be 45%, meaning that at least six schools that previously received funding will not for the coming school year.
Almost half of U.S. students now are classified as living in poverty, according to a January 2015 report from the Southern Education Foundation, which reported that 48% of children qualified for federal programs for free or reduced-priced lunches as of 2013. The report indicated that the percentage of children from households in poverty has increased steadily from 1989 when it was 32% and is the highest it has been in at least 50 years.
Impact of New ESEA
The outlook for Title I funding moving forward is dependent on what type of reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act eventually is voted into law.
In March, the House cancelled a planned vote on its Student Success Act, an update of ESEA that would have altered the requirement that Title I funding be targeted to school systems with high levels of poverty by allowing funds to follow individual students in poverty even if they moved to a wealthier district or transferred to a charter school.
While many Republicans supported the concept of Title I portability, most Democrats opposed it and President Obama threatened to veto any bill that included it. Questions about the Title I portability change and about accountability requirements caused the House SSA to be shelved.
In April, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and ranking Democrat Sen. Patty Murphy of Washington provided their committee with a new version of a bill that would reauthorize ESEA.
This bill drops the Title I portability change favored by the Republicans in exchange for also dropping the Democratic proposal for creating a new category of federal formula funding for early childhood education.
The Senate committee is expected to review the bill, which focuses on shifting decisions about academic standards, teacher evaluation and polices for under-achieving schools to the states and districts, during the week of April 13. Under the Senate bill, states would still have to administer math and reading tests each year to every student in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school and would still be required to act to improve poor-performing schools.•