As a state we need to take one small step to help students living in poverty. Currently, our state punishes these students by using a funding formula not used anywhere else in the country. Under Maine’s current formula, which provides state dollars to local schools, schools are penalized by the state for receiving federal Title I funds.
Title I Funds
Title I funds are provided through the U.S. Department of Education to “school districts to improve educational programs in schools with high concentrations of students from low-income families.” In 2012-2013, Maine schools received more than $40 million in Title I funds from the federal government. Yet our current state funding formula “offsets” these funds by subtracting them from the funding the state provides to those qualifying districts.
The Impact of the “Offset”
The offset impacts school districts statewide and is detailed in a new report, prepared by the MEA. Students in poverty fall behind when the state “offsets” the funds simply because a school district has students in poverty and can access supplemental federal funds. Those federal funds are intended to provide specialized programs and services to our neediest children. This scenario largely eliminates the intended benefit of the Title I program for poor school districts and disadvantaged students.
The current system of cutting state subsidy for the schools that receive Title I funds hurts poor students in every corner of Maine—from the rolling fields of Aroostook to the rocky coast of Washington County to the streets of Cumberland County. In fact, 80% of the schools that received an “F” in the Governor’s letter grade system were Title I schools.
Elected leaders in Augusta must step up to the challenge and make sure every student in the state is put first and has access to a top-notch education, regardless of zip code. The first step is to let schools keep their much needed Title I funds without hurting the communities that are eligible to receive these funds.
How You Can Help