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Title I Formula Redux: How Schools in Rich States Benefit

I meant to return to the Title I formula yesterday, but I was distracted by "Family Guy" and George Will.

Kevin Carey and Michael Dannenberg have added comments on the Title I formula over at AFT's "Let's Get It Right." (For my response, see here.) Carey and Dannenberg raise issues I uncovered while I was reporting last week's story on the increased amount of the targeting of Title I's $12.8 billion on the poorest districts. Because of space constraints, I wasn't able to include them in my article.

With the unlimited space available here, I'd like to add to Carey's comments about the per-pupil Title I allocation to districts. He calls it an "egregious and under-recognized flaw" in the formula.

Here's how it works: Districts' per-pupil allocations are calculated based on their state's per-pupil spending. This is inherently unfair, Carey argues, because it rewards wealthy states and hurts states that don't have the economic base to support their schools.

If Congress would change Title I so per-pupil allocation is the national average for all districts, it would create a dramatic shift in the way money flows. Looking at data from the fiscal 2007 year, here's what I found:

States that would have gained more than 10 percent
Nevada, North Carolina, Utah, Tennessee, Alabama, Arizona, Mississippi, Florida, and Oklahoma.

States that would have lost more than 10 percent
Maryland, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Wisconsin, Michigan, Massachusetts, Ohio, Rhode Island, Indiana, and Illinois.

That's a total of 19 states.

Would changing the per-pupil allocation solve the problem of targeting? As I look at these lists, I'm not so sure it's a panacea. Some of the potential winners aren't necessarily high-poverty states, while some of the losers have significant pockets of poverty.

But I do see political implications. The Senate's education committee has Democratic members from Maryland, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Illinois, and Ohio, and its chairman is from Massachusetts. Then again, the Senate majority leader is from Nevada, and Republicans have elected Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee to their No. 3 leadership post.

In 2007, we didn't hear much about the Title I formula. If NCLB reauthorization gets serious in 2008, perhaps we will.

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