Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Unequal Results of the Federal Sequester on High Poverty Schools

Now that school is back into swing, elementary and secondary schools are feeling the full brunt of the sequester, but not all schools are feeling it the same.  Most of the federal money in public schools flows through Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.  While my past work has critiqued the formulas through which these funds extensively for their failure to fully account for the effects of concentrated poverty, it is true that the money flows to schools based upon the number of poor kids they have.  Thus, the more poor kids a district has the more money it is loosing under the sequester cuts. 

Wealthy districts, of course, have poor kids too, so they are suffering cuts as well.  But those cuts amount to smaller line items and those districts necessarily have more capacity to make up the difference.  Whereas, other districts are loosing more money and have less capacity.  MSNBC tells the story of the affluent Loudon County, Virginia, district where district officials say the cuts "meant hardly anything," but in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, things are pretty bad. 

When Harrisonburg students went back to school in August, there were fewer teachers and staff to greet them: The district lost an English proficiency teacher, a school social worker, a Head Start teacher, and a teacher’s aide when sequestration cut $400,000 from the school budget, according to Harrisonburg school superintendent Scott Kizner. The cuts come to a district where 70% of students qualify for a free school lunch, and more than 40% speak English as a second language.

Edweek paints an even more troubling picture of schools on Native American tribal lands that rely not only on Title I aid but federal impact aid. 

Unfortunately, this type of fiscal inequity from the federal government is becoming par for the course.  When the economic recession started in 2008 and the federal government stepped in with stimulus money to save education budgets, the federal government indicated that states should distribute those funds equitably/progressively, but as several organizations pointed out, many states distributed those stimulus funds along the same inequitable lines that had previously landed them in court for violations of state constitutional rights to education.  The Department of Education refused to step in to stop it.  Now that the federal government is shutting down the funding flow post recession--albeit on a different line item--it is again poor kids getting the shrift.

Analysis, Equity in education, ESEA/NCLB, Federal policy, School Funding | Permalink


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