Distributing Title I Aid

September 05, 2001 4 min read

Jump to comparison table for Baltimore and Howard County public schools.

Money under Title I, Part A, is currently distributed through two formulas: “basic” grants and “concentration” grants. The two main factors in both are the number of school-age children in poor families and each state’s average per-pupil expenditure. The fiscal 2001 allocation for Part A is nearly $8.8 billion.
Basic grants: The vast majority of Title I funds, $7.4 billion this fiscal year, is distributed under this formula. The threshold for participation is extremely low: Any district with 10 or more “formula” children* and with a child- poverty rate of at least 2 percent qualifies. More than 90 percent of school districts receive “basic” grants. Concentration grants: This formula is more targeted than basic grants, though the threshold is still wide enough to include thousands of school districts. The minimum requirement is at least 6,500 formula children or a child-poverty rate of at least 15 percent. For fiscal 2001, which ends Sept. 30, $1.4 billion was appropriated under this formula.
Two other formulas were added during the 1994 reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, but have never been funded.
Targeted grants: This formula was designed to be more sharply targeted to high-poverty districts and schools. The distinctive feature is that it would provide larger grants to districts per poor child as the percentage or number of poor children in a district increased. Funding would also be based in part on the state’s per-pupil expenditure. Education finance incentive grants: These grants would reward states where the disparity in spending between districts is small and where overall spending on schools is high relative to income. The main elements of the formula are an “effort” factor, an equity factor, and a population factor. The effort factor is calculated based on a comparison of state expenditures per pupil compared with state income per capita. The equity factor is a measure of the disparities in expenditures per pupil among districts in a state. The population factor uses the total school-age population, in contrast to the other three formulas, which focus on poor children.
The Title I formulas are complicated by several other provisions. For example, a state minimum is calculated under all four formulas. Also, Congress for the past several years has enacted 100 percent “hold harmless” provisions designed to ensure that all states and districts receive at least as much Title I aid as they did the year before, regardless of shifts in poverty rates or other relevant factors. In addition, for the past two years, Congress has set aside a small portion of the “basic” grants funding for states to use for intervention in failing schools. For the fiscal year that ends this month, that amount was $225 million.
Funding for schools: Unlike aid under most federal K-12 programs, the bulk of Title I money is allocated to individual schools (though central-district offices have discretion to take some funds for districtwide services). While several rules relate to school selection, participating schools generally must have a percentage or number of poor children that is higher than the district’s average, or 36 percent, whichever is lower. Districts can generally choose to focus services on selected grade levels (e.g., only in elementary schools), but they must serve all schools whose enrollments are made up 75 percent or more of low-income students, in rank order, before serving any other schools. An exemption from the school-selection requirements is allowed for districts with enrollments of 1,000 or fewer students. What is poor? Districts have several options for calculating poverty in schools’ enrollments, but most use data from the free and reduced-price lunch program. Students qualify for free school lunches if their household income, in the case of a family of four, is at or less than $22,945, 130 percent of the federally defined poverty standard. Students get reduced-price lunches if their household income is no more than 185 percent of the poverty level. For a family of four, that threshold would be $32,653. For its part, in calculating Title I allocations to states and districts, the Department of Education relies on the most recently available poverty and population estimates from the Census Bureau. For the current year, 1997 data were used.

NOTE: *"Formula” children are predominantly children ages 5 to 17 living in poor families, but that label also includes several much smaller categories, such as certain foster children.

SOURCES: Congressional Research Service and U.S. Department of Agriculture

Baltimore and Howard County

Baltimore public schools

Howard County public Schools

Total enrollment:


Free lunch: 64,876
(64.9 percent)
(6.6 percent)
(6.2 percent)
(2.9 percent)
Estimated Title I
allocation for fiscal 2001:
41.6 million 2.1 million
Total schools 182 65
Schools participating
in Title I:
112 10

Note: Enrollment data are from Sept. 30, 2000; free and reduced-price lunch data are from Oct. 31, 2000.

SOURCES: Baltimore public schools, Howard County public schools, and Maryland Department of Education.