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Senate Forges Accord on Chapter 1 Funding Formula

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Washington

Senate aides have reached agreement on ways to further concentrate Chapter 1 funds on the poorest students, but are continuing to refine the Chapter 1 formula and other elements of a massive school-aid bill that is expected to win committee approval this month.

Word of the Chapter 1 agreement--and plans to add two new programs to the bill--emerged last week as the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee postponed for the second time its mark-up of S 1513. The bill would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which includes most federal school programs, authorizing more than $12 billion in annual aid.

Committee aides again said that senators were wrapped up in work on health-care reform.

The panel's Subcommittee on Education, Arts, and Humanities approved S 1513 last month with a Chapter 1 funding formula that would not distinguish between basic grants and concentration grants for areas with the most poor children, as the current formula does.

Wealthier Schools Ineligible

It would use a series of weighting factors to determine how much money would flow from the federal government to each state, from the states to school districts, and from districts to schools. (See Education Week, March 25, 1994.)

The formula did not concentrate federal dollars on the neediest students as much as some senators would like, so aides have spent several weeks discussing the issue.

While aides said they are still working on the part of the formula that determines how much money will flow from the federal government to the states, they have reached an agreement on further targeting money within states by:

  • Eliminating low-poverty schools from the program. Districts with poverty rates of 5 percent or less would be eligible for 85 percent of their previous year's allocation in the first year after reauthorization, but then would be dropped from the program.
  • Altering a provision that would have excluded from calculations 5 percent of each district's eligible students. Instead, the formula would exclude from calculations a number of eligible children equal to 1 percent of a district's entire enrollment, a change designed to benefit districts with high concentrations of poverty.
  • Employing a weighting formula, based on a student's perceived educational burden. Aides said it would be similar to the mechanism the subcommittee bill used for distribution of funds to states, but the details remain under negotiation.

The two new programs that aides said would be added to S 1513 would authorize $50 million for urban and rural schools in high-need areas--a program also included in the House's E.S.E.A. bill--and $400 million for the repair, renovation, and construction of school facilities.

Aides have also been working on provisions to revamp the impact-aid program, which aids districts that lose property-tax revenue due to the presence of federal property or workers. Aides and lobbyists said the Senate will likely follow the direction of the House and develop a weighted formula based on students' perceived burden.

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