Rural Trust Launches Title I Formula Fairness Campaign

Last Updated: February 25, 2010

This article appeared in the February 2010 Rural Policy Matters.

For months the Rural Trust has been reporting on severe inequities in the Title I funding formula. Title I is the primary source of federal funding for disadvantaged students. Beginning in 2002 the formulas used to distribute money have sent more money per disadvantaged child to large districts than to poor districts. That’s just wrong.

The Obama Administration has announced that it will seek reauthorization of No Child Left Behind (the Elementary and Secondary Education Act). As Congress and the administration work out the program and its funding, it is important to hold them accountable for a formula that provides an equitable distribution of federal funds under Title I of the Act for all disadvantaged students regardless of where they live and attend school.

The Formula Fairness Campaign aims to attack the unfairness in the Title I formula by exposing it, organizing rural people and other allies to protest it, and offering fair and reasonable remedies for the injustices it inflicts.
The Formula fairness campaign has 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.

Learn more about the Formula Fairness Campaign, what you can do, and how you can join with others in the effort to end unfair and discriminatory treatment of rural districts and their low-income students.

Read more from the February 2010 Rural Policy Matters