To the Editor:
If one is under the impression that the Title I formula of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is rational, consider this. Last month, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visited Hamlet, N.C., to discuss rural education (“Rural Areas Perceive Policy Tilt,” Sept. 2, 2009). Hamlet is in the Richmond County school system, a small district with a high poverty rate. Thirty-two percent of its students are Title I-eligible. Under the formula, it received $1,209 per Title I student in 2008-09. The adjacent Charlotte-Mecklenburg district, the largest in North Carolina, has a 16 percent eligibility rate, but received $1,398 per student, nearly $200 more than Richmond County.
Chicago, on the other hand, with an eligibility rate that, at 27 percent, is also well below Richmond County’s, pulled in $2,273 per student, over $1,000 more per student than Richmond. And that’s nothing compared to Colchester, Vt., a suburb of Burlington, which has a Title I eligibility rate of only 7 percent, but received a hefty $2,546 for each of its Title I students last year—well over double the amount high-poverty Richmond County received.
These are not aberrations, but systematic failures of a formula designed to satisfy political, not programmatic, objectives. The Title I formula is broken. Congress needs to fix it so that places like Richmond County get the funding they need to take on the challenges they face.
(The writer is the policy director of the Rural School and Community Trust, headquartered in Arlington, Va.)
A version of this article appeared in the September 23, 2009 edition of Education Week as ‘Broken’ Title I Formula Needs Congress’ Action