Title I Spending Rules Could Use Updating, Influencial Source Says

March 19, 2009 1 min read

In the weeks before the election last fall, Robert Gordon published an intriguing essay for the Center for American Progress, where he worked at the time. The title—"More Equity and Less Red Tape"—aptly summarizes what is a nuanced argument delving deeply into complicated rules governing how districts spend Title I money.

In the piece, Gordon argues that the federal government should abandon the “supplement, not supplant” rule and be more forceful about “comparability.” Under “supplement, not supplant,” schools are forced “to prove what they would have done in the absence of federal funding,” Gordon writes. That creates a web of red tape that doesn’t ensure districts equitably distribute resources, he said.

The “supplement, not supplant” rule wouldn’t be missed if Congress strengthened the “comparability” rules, he argues. The current rule requires districts to provide Title I schools with similar services to those at other schools. But “comparability” would be much more powerful if it required districts to ensure Title I schools receive the same resources as other schools, Gordon writes. The change would create complexities of its own—particularly in the accounting for teacher salaries—but it would probably lead to an equitable distribution of money to schools serving low-income students, he concludes.

To deconstruct the title, beefing up “comparability” would produce “more equity” while getting rid of “supplement, not supplant” would result in “less red tape.”

I revisited the essay this week because it helps explain how state officials could divert stimulus money for Title I away from districts, as some are trying to do. But this issue certainly will arise during NCLB reauthorization. And then Gordon will be able to do more than pontificate on it. He’ll have the chance to sway federal policy in his new post as the person in charge of education issues at the White House’s Office of Management and Budget.

A version of this news article first appeared in the NCLB: Act II blog.