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Possible changes to Title I funding won’t be a problem locally, school officials say

The Kentucky Department of Education is asking the public to comment on a proposed regulation that could impact the state’s Title I distribution, but both Boyle and Danville say the changes would have little impact on the districts.

Title 1 distributions provide financial assistance to local educational agencies and schools with high numbers or high percentages of children from low-income families to help ensure all children meet challenging state academic standards. Federal funds are allocated through statutory formulas based on census poverty estimates and the cost of education in each state.

The proposed regulation emphasizes making schools rely on the funds as supplemental, not as  a replacement for state and local funds.

“The proposal is supposed to help ensure that federal funds are additive and do not take the place of state and local funds in low-income schools,” according to a press release from the Kentucky Department of Education.

“What has happened over time, is that Title I dollars have come in with such consistency, which we appreciate greatly, that we forget it’s a grant,” Danville Schools Superintendent Keith Look said. “When you start to use those dollars — when it becomes such regularity that you start to see it as part of your operating budget instead of a grant  — you start to lose focus of the intent. The intent hasn’t changed.

“They are always updating the regulations to be a bit more specific, but it was always intended to serve these families and never to replace general fund dollars.”

The regulations provide four ways that districts can demonstrate their compliance. Those who are interested in reading the full regulation can visit bit.ly/2ewHlZR and can voice their opinions to the federal government at bit.ly/2enR1WF by Nov. 7.

Look said he isn’t concerned because Danville has been able to operate with the funds as they were intended — as a supplement.

“We know that it is to supplement and not to supplant. This isn’t different. There must be more of an issue in other places for this to rise to this level of attention,” Look said.

The district has focused the dollars more at the elementary level, though, and may have to refocus that, he said, and do some “redistribution.”

“With any grant, all of us look to maximize our resources. It would be foolish not to say that isn’t part of the equation,” Look said.

According to a press release from the Kentucky Department of Education, on average,

• low-poverty, low-minority schools are twice as likely to offer a full range of math and science courses as high-poverty, high-minority schools;

• low-poverty schools tend to offer three times as many AP classes;

• low-minority schools are twice as likely to offer dual enrollment or dual credit opportunities as high-minority schools; and

• educators in high-poverty and high-minority schools are more than twice as likely to be in their first or second year of teaching when compared to their peers in low-poverty and low-minority schools.

Danville schools receive free lunch district-wide due to the district’s level of free and reduced lunch recipients. These “averages” listed are not issues for the district, Look said.

“Our AP offerings are robust, especially for a 500-student high school,” he said. “Already, we’re providing attention at all levels, particularly targeting the kind of needs demonstrated by the students Title I is intended for.”

The district may have to do a little redistribution under a new regulation, Look said, because a lot of the focus is on elementary-aged students, but the family income doesn’t usually change when the students go to middle school and high school.

David Morris, finance officer for the Boyle County Schools, said the district would likely not be affected by the proposed regulation.

“We’re going to be fine,” Morris said.

There’s criticism out there, he said, because the proposed regulation could cause some districts to do forced staffing changes, sending a longtime teacher to a different school in the district to balance out the high turnover rate at a different school in that district.

That’s because the proposed regulation uses actual salaries at the schools instead of the salary schedules done in the past. This is to help balance the young teachers with those who have been teaching for a while.

“(Teacher unions) are saying you’re going to make schools force transfer,” he said, adding that they are also anticipating schools will be forced to base staffing decision on balancing the finances out, not on finding the best teacher.

While there may be validity to the idea of moving long-time teachers to high-turnover schools — which are typically schools with high poverty rates — Morris said such a requirement wouldn’t affect the district.

The Boyle schools that have the largest population of lower income students — Junction City and Perryville elementary schools — both have teachers who have been at the district for a long time, keeping the salary levels at each school more equally balanced.

“As far as we’re concerned, (the regulation) has really good intent, to give the money to the schools and kids that are underserved traditionally,” he said.

Follow Kendra Peek on Twitter, @knpeek.

SO YOU KNOW

Anyone interested in reading a complete copy of the proposed Title 1 regulation changes can visit bit.ly/2ewHlZR.

Those who are interested in voicing their opinion on the matter can visit bit.ly/2enR1WF by Nov. 7.