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NCLB Outrages

Study Finds that School-Funding Loopholes Leave Poor Children Behind

The nation's main program for educating the disadvantaged, Title I, is
hampered by loopholes that prevent it from fulfilling its mission,
according to a new study. The $13 billion Title I program, now the major
funding arm of President Bush's No Child Left Behind act, must close the
loopholes if it is to ensure that school districts channel the money to
needy schools, said lead author Marguerite Roza. New research documents
how current rules allow the federal funds intended for low-income schools
to be shifted -- sometimes inadvertently -- to affluent schools within the
same district. The study found that despite Title I language requiring
that the aid reach schools in impoverished neighborhoods, in practice the
grant flows into district funding systems favoring the rich. In almost
every school district, experienced teachers are not only far better-paid
than novice teachers, but they are far more likely to work in wealthier
parts of town. However, district accounting practices typically fail to
show this hidden subsidy for affluent students. Instead, most districts
count costs as if salaries were the same in every school. In the real
world, the study shows, this means poor children get shortchanged. When
Houston's actual teacher salaries are factored in, for example, low-income
schools there get $472 less per student in non-targeted state and local
funds than the district average. These findings led to two basic
recommendations that the researchers say could strengthen Title I to
better serve disadvantaged children and help it achieve the mission set
forth during President Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty four decades ago:
(1) Require districts to account for salary differences between schools.
Districts are currently allowed to average the salaries; and (2) Require
districts to provide equitable resources, in actual dollars, to each
school before Title I funds are brought to bear. These reforms, according
to the 20-page report, would not only improve the distribution of the $13
billion annually spent on Title I, but also would start to leverage a more
fair and effective distribution of the rest of the nation's $455 billion
in annual school spending.

— Marguerite Roza, with Larry Miller & Paul Hill
Center on Reinventing Public Education


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