[Nora Gordon, an associate professor of public policy at Georgetown University] has just written a report, digging into what she considers some of Title I’s biggest inefficiencies and offering a few timely fixes.

The average Title 1 allotment for a student in Mississippi? $1,100.

Alaska, North Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming all have far fewer poor students but receive more than twice as much federal funding for each of them. Why?

Gordon points to several reasons. Among them, a small-state minimum guarantees a base level of funding to states with small populations. Also, hold harmless provisions ensure that states don’t experience big drops in funding from year-to-year, even if their school enrollments decline.

But the real difference-maker is in the Title I math itself. A state’s allotment comes from multiplying the number of eligible children by a factor of the state’s average per-pupil spending.

Translation: “It rewards places that spend more,” Gordon says. And Mississippi, in addition to being one of the poorest states in the nation, also has one of the lowest per-pupil spending rates.

In this way, Title I, an anti-poverty program, privileges more affluent, high-spending states.

“Right now, Title I is spreading funds too thinly, too broadly,” says Gordon. “It’s not progressive enough. It’s not concentrating funds enough to the places that really need it and giving them bigger allocations.”


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