Critic: Title I Weighting Works Against Urban Schools

By Mary Schulken — August 11, 2010 2 min read
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Number weighting in the formula used to allocate federal Title I funds works against small, high-poverty urban districts the same way it works against many high-poverty rural districts, reports Marty Strange of the Rural School and Community Trust on the Formula Fairness blog.

Strange writes that the largest school district in New York’s 27th congressional district is one big loser:

Inner-city Buffalo City School District, which has a 32 percent poverty rate, sacrifices over $2.1 million to number weighting. That is the third-largest loss due to number weighting in the nation. Number weighting hurts rural schools and especially high-poverty rural schools. But it hurts relatively small, high-poverty urban districts as well. Without number weighting, all districts would be weighted only according to the percentage of students who are disadvantaged, and places like Buffalo would do very well."

Schools use Title I money to assist children in poverty, who are often at risk for academic failure. Critics contend the way the No Child Left Behind Act parses out Title I funds puts small, poor school districts at a disadvantage. Read more about the problems in this earlier Rural Education blog post.

In number weighting, which began in 2002, payments are based on the numbers of poor students a district has rather than strictly the percentage of poor students, resulting in a very different outcome for small, high-poverty schools.

You can also read a more detailed explanation in this March report by Strange to a Senate committee detailing what research by the Formula Fairness Campaign shows.

The Formula Fairness Campaign is a partnership of organizations with rural roots and rural interests that’s arguing for changes.

Revising the formula is not mentioned in the administration’s Blueprint for Reform.

John White, deputy secretary for rural outreach, told the Rural Education blog in response to a recent question that the Education Department would work with Congress “at the appropriate time” to revise the criticized formula. He did not say that it was a priority, but he indicated discussion would take place alongside renewal of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act—a step that grows increasingly doubtful this year.

“Our first priority is to lay out our overall policy objectives for ESEA,” White said. “We know that Congress will hold extensive deliberations and would look forward to working with Congress at the appropriate time regarding issues related to formula.”

That argument does not satisfy critics such as Strange, who point to the almost-nil chance that ESEA will be re-upped this year and say revisions to the formula should be in the administration’s Blueprint.

“The message we get back from any specific attempts to engage the administration in any inclusion of this issue in its Blueprint has always been that this issue has to wait because a formula fight would derail attempts to get the reauthorization done this year,” Strange told the Rural Education blog.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Rural Education blog.