Bitter Pill, Better Formula: To a Single, Fair and Equitable Formula for ESEA Title I, Part A; Spoonful of Sugar: An Equity Fund to Facilitate a Single, Fair and Equitable ESEA Title I-A

This pair of policy papers tackles the untouchable: the much
despised, but politically sacrosanct, Title I formula. As it currently
stands, Title I, Part A disburses funds through four funding formulae
that are not only terribly complex (see CAP’s “plain English”
explanation in August 2009’s “Secret Recipes Revealed”),
but do not accurately reflect the purpose and mission of the Title--to
aid districts in the education of low-income students. The main problem
is that the four formulae unduly privilege wealthier states and bigger
districts. A smaller district with more low-income students might
receive fewer Title I-A funds than its larger more affluent neighbor. On
an even more local level, a school in one state might see their Title
I-A per-pupil allocation increase or decrease precipitously if
teleported to another state. CAP’s solution is laid out in “Bitter Pill,
Better Formula.” Miller and Brown compute funding allocation changes
from FY 2009 to a hypothetical FY 2010 if their new single formula were
employed. It makes improvements over ESEA’s current formulation in three
important ways: It recognizes within-state variations is cost of
living, it more fairly takes into account state’s fiscal effort, i.e.,
how the state leverages its own resources to support schools, and it
recalculates concentrations of poor students in a way that does not
favor wealthier districts. Mississippi would win biggest; Hawaii lose
the most. (See how our home state of Ohio does here.)
But how to get Congress to even move on such a political minefield is a
whole other issue; the authors are ready with “Spoonful of Sugar,” a
short memo that explains how an equity fund ($2.16 billion over three
years) would hold districts harmless while increasing the dollars going
to ones being shortchanged. Both papers are worth your perusal, but,
“Bitter Pill” being a report about complex funding formulae, it is
hardly light reading. Find them here.

Raegen T. Miller and Cynthia G. Brown
Center for American Progress
February 2010

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