In ESEA Reauthorization, Why Would ALL Children be Classified as Title I?
Today we feature guest blogger Sandra Smith, Founder of Democrats Against Common Core and Mother of four. She provides an excellent description of Title I funding, the changes proposed in the ESEA reauthorization and how these changes would be disastrous for public schools.
How Title I Funding Currently Works: An Explanation
I just spoke with a local superintendent. He was unaware of the specifics of Senator Lamar Alexander’s pending draft of ESEA, but after hearing the details, he concluded that Title I funds following the child could be “devastating” to the schools in his district.
Currently, this district receives funding based on the reported poverty level within its boundaries. The district can choose whether to accept the funding or not. Years ago, the district made the controversial decision to decline the funding because the requirements were just too unreasonable. Now, the district accepts Title I funds, but has had to hire additional staff in order to comply with the federal demands. The local school district has discretion over how to divide the pot of Title I money among schools. The school district may choose to designate any of the schools with greater than 35% free/reduced lunch as Title I. The school district is required to designate any of the schools with greater than 75% free/reduced lunch as Title I. The district then decides, mostly based on test scores, which school sites would benefit most from Title I-funded support, and the money is distributed accordingly.
This particular school district receives about $1 million per year in Title I funds. If that money were diluted by students leaving and taking their Title I funds with them (as indicated in Alexander’s draft proposal), services would be cut drastically.
Charter schools may request a portion from the district’s pot of Title I money. However, they generally choose not to. This means they only receive state funding and are only accountable to the state. California has adopted Common Core and uses the SBAC tests, so those are still required in all California’s charter schools. However, the teeth of Title I, “program improvement” for schools that do not meet Annual Yearly Progress, do not apply to charter schools choosing not to request Title I money. That means there is no “accountability” for their test scores. In traditional public schools, test scores must be reported by subgroup based on ethnicity, income and language. They must improve within each subgroup and the spread can’t be too wide. No such requirements apply to schools not receiving federal funds. No consequences exist for schools not classified as Title I schools. Neither the test scores nor the pie charts of subgroups are reported on www.greatschools.org for most charter schools. So when charter schools complain about having to do more with less, they mean that they only get state money instead of federal money, which is the majority of the funding they would receive anyway. Without the most onerous of accountability requirements that apply to truly public schools, it is easy to see why they are able to operate without the Title I funds.
The superintendent I spoke with said that local private schools never request a share of the school district’s Title I funds, even though they may be eligible to do so, because demographically their population is typically higher income (they would have to have greater than 35% free/reduced lunch to be eligible for any Title I funding).
When charter schools begin requesting Title I money that follows the child, they will be more lucrative, even if they are subject to federal requirements. Perhaps this is why 48 pages of the new ESEA draft is dedicated to charter schools, followed by a section on magnet schools. If the federal requirements these schools have successfully avoided so far are loosened for charter schools, they will be free to take money from the Title I pot without the onerous strings normally attached to the money. That’s where the buzz word “innovation” comes in. The federal government can pat themselves on the back for freeing up charter schools to try new “innovative” methods without inflicting upon them the same burdens of oversight and federally mandated compliance requirements suffered by traditional public schools.
An interesting comment the superintendent made was in the form of a question (I’m paraphrasing here): “So what are they going to do, base per pupil funding on the socioeconomic status of every child? This child is worth $6,000 and this child is worth $8,000 and that money travels with the child?” He said it sounded a lot like vouchers.
In Duncan’s No Child Left Behind Waivers, all students are classified as Title I. My own state of California does not have a waiver at this time. For states that do, and for Title I districts in states that don’t, this is nothing but a voucher system in disguise.
When I explained about charters taking students but not offering special education services, ending up with only kids whose parents were engaged enough to transfer them and who have the time and means to drive their children to school due to lack of bus service, this local superintendent made another interesting comment. I could hear a sense of dawning realization in his voice. He said (I’m paraphrasing again), “not to sound negative, but I can see how that could leave public schools with only the lowest achieving students”. I said “Yep, and eventually the Wal-Mart’s of the for-profit charter school movement will come for those students too”. He said he has read about a number of charter management organizations that were just out for profit who drove their schools into the ground. He had read about these in our home state of California.
I have to credit him for taking the time to have this conversation with me. I would encourage others to initiate an open dialogue with local superintendents about the future of their public schools as well. I ended our talk by informing him of the potential dangers facing the district, and I’m grateful that he was open minded enough to take it in and digest it. So far, I’m sure his main source of information has been the promising talking points that come with the new standards. I started off with questions, not attacks or telling him all the reasons why I’m against Common Core. Education is a two-way street in this battle. We are fighting to save our public schools, whether they know it or not.
Before I end, here are some facts that may interest you. The school district’s total funding is about $28 million. $1 million represents only 3.5% of our budget. I have read through the budget and I have to say that the schools run VERY lean. I know there’s a lot of talk about waste, but I don’t see it in the district or school budgets. There is no fat left to trim. So 3.5% may not sound like a lot, but $1 million is a lot. Reducing this funding will result in a reduction of tutors, librarians, tech support, and other services that help low-income/low-achieving children and the student population as a whole. Trimming these services only further underserves the students who need it the most, the students the SBAC/PARCC will deem as failures. Pushing them even harder toward failure only serves to further the narrative that public schools are failing, in need of intervention. How does this help children? It doesn’t. It hurts them. It benefits profit-driven charter management organizations, profit-driven testing companies, and profit-driven curriculum companies; and it cements federal control over our neighborhood schools. Our government is moving toward closing government schools. Crazy, isn’t it? You can thank public-private-partnerships (P3s) for that. Education just became a very good investment; not an investment in our children but one that Alexander’s draft of ESEA will ensure is very profitable for a select few.
- In case you’re in favor of vouchers, Freedom Outpost explains why school “choice” is no choice at all here.
- Truth in American Education explains the consequences for Title I districts and schools not meeting Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) here in an easy to digest summary here.
- California DOE has a handy chart on Title I Requirements.
- The original source is here, where ESEA identifies consequences for school districts who receive Title I funding, in section 1116, section (b)(5-14).
Here is a meme I made regarding program improvement consequences for Title I schools. My school is in year 3. This applies to all schools accepting Title 1 funds.
What’s the tie in to Common Core and this redefining of who is a Title I student? Are these NGO Common Core prepared tests designed to make every student designated as ‘failing’ so charters/vouchers are ‘the answer’?