Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Title I Money is Inequitably Distributed Too

Anyone who knows how unfairly distributed NJ education aid is won't be surprised to learn that federal education aid is just as unfairly distributed as US News & World Report reports.

The distribution of federal aid is unfair both between states and between districts within states.

One reason for interstate disparities is that the federal government decided it was a good idea to use federal aid as an incentive to get states and localities to increase their own education spending, so laws on federal aid present "carrots" where the more districts and states spend, the more federal money they get.

The problem with this incentives approach is that it rewards the haves and ignores the have-nots.

Another oft-cited critique of the formula is that it rewards states and districts for investing more of their own dollars in education. While the goal is to incentivize states to spend more themselves, it tends to compound existing inequalities since wealthier states and districts tend to invest more heavily in education anyway.
Mississippi best illustrates this dilemma.
Especially in the state's Delta region, where poverty rates soar up to 60 percent, local revenue rarely breaks $1 million, and in some cases schools use their Title I money for bare necessities, like paying the electric and water bills.
"We don't want to allow states to roll back their spending," says Gordon. "But the reason why Mississippi is getting so little money per poor pupil is because they are spending very little money."

Also, there is a bias in favor of low-population states.

In addition, the formula directs extra funding to states with small populations – an attempt to channel more money to rural states, like New Mexico, that often depend on federal support for things like attracting and retaining teachers to remote schools. But wealthy states like Delaware and Connecticut have small populations because they are geographically small, and therefore qualify for the additional funds despite not needing them.

The US News article says that this bias is to help rural states, but it's really a consequence of the Senate's apportionment scheme and small state power.   Many block-grant formulas give a set percentage of aid to every state, usually 0.5%, regardless of its population, with the remainder, usually 75%, thereby distributed based on population and need.

Since several states have below than 0.5% of the US population, they disproportionately benefit.

There are also disparities between districts in states.  These are too to attempts to incentivize spending and also (you guessed it!) Hold Harmless provisions in the law.

The US News article has a table giving the amount of Title I money going to every district in the US.  The table is extremely useful because it gives Title I funding in per student terms.

As you can see, the distribution does not align with what anyone would consider need.  If money were to be distributed based on the percentage of students who are FRL-eligible, Camden, Bridgeton, and Woodlynne would get the most money, but only Camden is even in the top twenty.  Woodlynne only gets $1,644 per student.  Bridgeton gets $1804 per student.    

Having New Providence as NJ's fourth biggest recipient based on actual poverty figures is ridiculous.  

DistrictEnrollmentPercentage of Kids in PovertyTitle I MoneyTitle I Money Per StudentState AidLocal Tax Levy
Greenwich Township (Cumberland)8618.60%$48,980$3,061$527,000$837,000
Alloway Township6647.08%$143,790$3,059$4,365,000$3,846,000
Mannington Township22517.33%$117,581$3,015$902,000$2,634,000
New Providence 2,4622.44%$173,691$2,895$4,960,000$33,487,000
Robbinsville Township2,9452.44%$198,816$2,761$5,027,000$39,856,000
Frelinghuysen Township 1832.73%$13,109$2,622$848,000$2,060,000
Salem City92844.07%$1,001,579$2,449$20,987,000$4,735,000
Estell Manor City3178.20%$61,560$2,368$2,268,000$2,448,000
Camden City 15,97540.66%$15,149,070$2,332$334,324,000$11,917,000
Saddle Brook 2,0317.48%$353,529$2,326$3,150,000$38,150,000
Union Township (Hunterdon) 5203.27%$38,234$2,249$1,137,000$9,297,000
Shore Regional 9756.77%$143,104$2,168$1,630,000$16,389,000
Avalon Borough7812.82%$21,363$2,136$270,000$4,270,000
Stone Harbor 6613.64%$19,150$2,128$273,000$3,261,000
Lavallette Borough 1779.60%$35,978$2,116$533,000$3,928,000
Downe Township22717.18%$82,195$2,108$2,254,000$1,416,000
North Wildwood City 33727.30%$189,965$2,065$1,607,000$7,039,000
Atlantic City 6,18745.98%$5,862,086$2,060$32,270,000$149,518,000

What's also problematic is that there is no attempt to adjust for tax base, so some, some ultra-high tax base districts like Avalon and Stone Harbor, are big recipients of Title I money.

Anyway, this blog focuses on state aid, but as you can see, the situation with federal aid isn't a lot better.  

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