by Sam Hieb
Once the Rev. Nelson Johnson and the “Black Lives Matter” demonstration cleared out, the Guilford County Board of Education got down to business, the most pressing issue being the allocation of Title I funds.
Watching the board debate this issue was –as usual —an exercise in frustration, as I’m not sure some board members understood the issue –which is GCS gets a pot of money from the federal government to deal with high-poverty students. Only problem is when you expand the definition of poverty –in this case so-called Community Eligibility Data –kids who are off the radar scope (homeless, undocumented immigrants, etc) are added into the mix. As a result, “there are more hands in the pot, but the pot’s not getting any bigger,” as GCS federal programs consultant Kelly Hales put it. Making matters worse is GCS used up reserves from last year’s pot of money.
As you can imagine, board members simply expressed regret that the pot of money wasn’t bigger. But instead of dealing with the issue straight up —voting up or down on staff’s recommended ‘poverty bands’ that group poor schools together—with the poorest schools getting more funding, which leaves schools getting less funding none too happy — the board set about adjusting percentages within the ‘poverty bands.’ Board member Ed Price –I’m not kidding —wanted to adjust the percentages in one poverty band from 70 percent to 69 percent just because “sixty-nine is an easier number to remember.”
The result of adjusting percentages within one “poverty band” is funding calculations for must be adjusted for other schools within that band, meaning many schools still won’t know how much Title I funding they will be receiving. I guess it’s not the worst thing in the world since GCS is still hashing out budget issues at the state and county levels. Still, many schools are counting on Title I funding and –in spite of board members’ constant expression of sympathy–I don’t see where they did those schools any favors.