Formula Fairness Campaign


Last Updated: November 30, 2009
 

This article appeared in the November 2009 Rural Policy Matters.
 
It’s Accountability Time
 
As the Obama Administration and Congress begin considering the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, it’s time to hold them accountable for a formula that distributes federal funds for the education of disadvantaged students under Title I of the Act.
 
Any formula that sends more money for disadvantaged students in wealthy suburbs and prosperous small towns and less money to rural districts that have higher poverty rates than even our most troubled big city school districts has got to be wrong.
 
The facts are plain to see. The education of a disadvantaged student in Fairfax County Virginia (6% poverty) is worth $1,935 to the federal government. In Chicago, with 27% poverty, it’s worth $2,408. But in 900 rural school districts where 37% of students are disadvantaged, those students’ education is only worth $1,476 to the federal government.
 
But don’t expect Congress or the Administration to pay any attention to the facts alone. This is about money and the power to influence, and if you don’t have the money to influence the Beltway, you need people — organized people — armed with the facts.
 
The Formula Fairness Campaign aims to attack the unfairness in the Title I formula by exposing it, organizing rural people to protest it in timely ways, and offering fair and reasonable remedies for the injustices it inflicts.
 
The Formula fairness campaign will have two main objectives. One is to mitigate the damage done to rural schools, especially small, high poverty schools, by the infamous “number weighting” system that is built into the Title I formula.
 
Number weighting sends more money to large school districts, whether they are poor or not, at the expense of smaller districts, even if they are high-poverty. In all about $400 million is shifted from smaller to larger school districts. Some of the shift benefits high-poverty urban districts, but much of it benefits low-poverty suburban districts.
 
The second objective is to change how the federal government determines the amount of money per Title I student that goes to schools in a given state. Currently, that amount is based on how much, on average, each state spends per pupil on K-12 education, no matter how wealthy or poor the state is. States that can afford to spend a lot without imposing high taxes get more Title I money per student. Those that strain their tax base with high taxes but still can’t afford high levels of spending, get less Title I money.
 
In the coming weeks we will be offering ways for you to participate in this campaign. Those who sign up will get updates and action alerts letting you know what is happening and how you can help. We’ll use all the electronic communication tools, but we won’t include you unless you absolutely tell us you want to be included in this campaign.
 
Watch RPM and our website (www.ruraledu.org) for more details on how you can participate in this Formula Fairness Campaign.
 
Read more from the November 2009 Rural Policy Matters.