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N.Y. Contests Use of Old Data For Allocation of Title I Funds

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Washington--State education officials in New York announced last week that they will seek a federal court order to prevent the U.S. Department of Education (ED) from using 12-year-old census data as the basis for distributing federal aid for disadvantaged children to the states.

New York Commissioner of Education Gordon M. Ambach said he made his decision to seek an injunction barring next July's distribution of Title I funds to states after learning that ed will make those allocations on the basis of 1970, rather than 1980, figures from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Title I, which was renamed Chapter I as part of the Education Consolidation and Improvement Act of 1981, provides special assistance to states for the education of children from low-income families, institutionalized children, and the children of migrants and American Indians. ed officials are compelled by law to make those allocations to the states no later than July 1.

Current Census Data

Federal law also compels ed officials to use the most current census data available in determining the Title I allocations to states. According to Thomas Fagan of ed's office of compensatory-education programs, department officials "have always thought that we would use the 1970 figures, but a few weeks ago it appeared that the 1980 figures would get to us in time to make this year's allocations."

"But when it came down to it, we found out that we would not have all the data that we needed in time to make the allocations by July," he explained.

Mr. Fagan said that there were two main reasons for the department's decision to base this year's Title I allocations on the older census figures.

First, he explained, the Census Bureau could not promise the department that it would have poverty data on Puerto Rico available in time for the July 1 allocations.

"And second, although we have poverty data on a state-by-state basis, those data have not been broken down at the county level," he added.

New York and several other economically beleaguered states in the Northeast and Midwest regions of the country would have received substantial increases in Title I aid this year if ed officials had decided to use the more current data.

Christopher Carpenter, a spokesman for the New York Department of Education, said that his state will lose almost $40 million this year and could be forced to discontinue Title I services for 100,000 students if ed is allowed to use the 1970 census data.

Currently, the state receives $233 million in Title I aid, Mr. Carpenter said. "If they use the 1970 figures, that goes down to $213 million," he said. "But if they use the 1980 figures, as we understand them, our allocation would go up to $253 million."

Similar Reductions

State education officials in Michigan and Ohio predicted that similar reductions in Title I aid would occur in their states if the older census data are used.

Use of the 1970 data in order to determine this year's allocations would be "a serious blow to education in Michigan," according to Linda Brown, a consultant to the state education department's office of compensatory-education programs.

"Our Title I aid would fall from $112 million now to about $92 million if they use the 1970 figures," she said. "We would have received $122 million and could have served almost 20,000 more students, if the newer figures were used."

Ms. Brown added that a "hold-harmless" provision in the Chapter I authorizing legislation, which protects states from losing more than 15 percent of their allocation from the previous year, saved the state from losing even more money this year.

In Ohio, use of the 1980 census data would have resulted in an additional $4 million in Title I aid to that state, according to James W. Miller, director of the state education department's division of education services.

"Right now, we are receiving about $82 million in Title I aid, and we are serving 145,300 children," he said. "By our estimates, we could have gotten services to almost 6,000 more students if they had used the newer figures."

"Given the fact that we are only serving approximately 40 percent of all the children in the state who, by our estimates, would be eligible for Title I, you certainly can say that the loss of $4 million is rather significant," said Mr. Miller.

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