As part of its 2015 Education Policy Platform, NCTE encourages federal legislators to focus on equity, particularly “ensuring that Title I funding focuses on districts with the greatest percentage of students who lack economic opportunities.” Title I portability promises to be one of the more contentious issues senators will face when the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015 (S. 1177) is introduced on the floor of the Senate. A number of senators plan to introduce amendments that would allocate Title I funding to all public and public charter schools based on the number of students of low socioeconomic status they serve rather than limiting that funding to schools and districts where there are high concentrations of such students. This change in allocation is termed “Title I portability.” (H.R. 5, the House’s ESEA reauthorization bill that was passed out of committee, includes portability language.)
Such portability will dismantle the intent of Title I, which was “to provide low-income students attending schools with high concentrations of other economically disadvantaged students with additional financial support.” [See Robin Hood in Reverse, Center for American Progress, p. 1.]
Opponents of portability between public and charter schools, such as Congressman Bobby Scott, argue that “Title I portability will take away resources from our poorest schools and districts and give them to more affluent ones, undermining the historic federal role of targeting aid to our neediest students.” An analysis from the Center for American Progress report found that “the poorest school districts would lose more than $675 million, while the lowest-poverty districts would gain more than $440 million” [Figure 1, p. 2]. This would have a devastating effect, particularly on large urban and small rural districts.
NCTE reaffirmed its commitment to low-income students in its 2015 Recommendation to Policymakers when it suggested that we “Build the Capacity for High-Needs Schools” noting that “Local literacy education capacity building is a powerful and sustainable way of serving children in poverty.” NCTE explains that “[s]tudents learn not as isolated individuals but as members of school communities. To improve the literacy learning of the students most in need, we must build the capacity of whole schools and districts in which these students are most concentrated. . . . This approach becomes self-sustaining and benefits students in the long term.”
In arguing that “Title I funds must be devoted to the schools and districts that serve the most
low-income children,” NCTE notes that “Thriving schools are places where collaboration and community engagement in literacy learning are ubiquitous. This environment is hardest to achieve in districts with the highest concentrations of poverty, where wraparound services and universal access to preschool are especially important to create the conditions for powerful literacy learning. Teachers need increased support for professional learning and collaboration, and principals must be particularly effective instructional leaders. If we want to build the capacity of these schools to remodel literacy learning and bridge achievement gaps, this is where Title I funding should focus. These funds can be critical to supporting the professional learning and collaboration among all educators that is crucial to student success.”
NCTE members who believe that Title I funds need to be dedicated to those districts that serve the most low-income children, rather than follow students to their choice of public or charter school, are encouraged to call, write, or meet with their senators prior to the debate on the Senate floor, which will occur most likely in June.