Newly released figures show that Connecticut is one of nine states
scheduled to see a reduction in federal Title I money, even though
more of the state's public schools are likely to be required to
make improvements under the No Child Left Behind Act.
Until now, Connecticut, like other states, had seen a sharp increase
in federal money since 2001, largely to support the No Child
Left Behind law; but this year's funding will decline slightly
because the state's child poverty rate has not grown as fast
as that of most other states.
Title I funds, aimed at educating disadvantaged children, are
awarded based on a formula that takes into account census estimates
of child poverty.
Across the nation, No Child Left Behind has increased pressure
on schools to raise the test scores of disadvantaged children,
but many educators say that federal support has not been enough
to pay for the sweeping improvements required by the law.
"Absolutely not. That's pretty clear," said
Sandra Cruz-Serrano, senior adviser to the Hartford superintendent
Any decline in federal funds would come as a blow just as the
system is revamping several schools, she said.
The state has not yet announced town-by-town Title I grants, but
the overall state allocation of $107.5 million was down about 1.4
percent while most other states saw increases, some as much as
Hartford got more than $20 million in Title I money last year,
but that figure will decline just as three elementary schools face
wholesale restructuring this year under No Child Left Behind. There
are 22 other schools in earlier stages of improvement under the
law, Cruz-Serrano said.
The three restructured schools - Milner, Kinsella and Moylan -
will require additional support for special education, the hiring
of more classroom aides, more teacher training and a revision of
curriculum, she said.
In addition, as many as a dozen schools will run behavior management
programs that require new staff, curriculum, training and supplies,
"The expectation is those schools will get additional resources
to do what needs to be done," she said.
No Child Left Behind is the centerpiece of President Bush's school
reform agenda. It calls for a broad expansion of testing and a
shake-up of schools that fail to make sufficient progress with
all students, including low-income children, special education
students and members of minority groups.
Federal officials say the law has been adequately funded and has
led to improved academic performance.
"There has been a massive increase in federal funding for
K-12 education" under the Bush administration, said C. Todd
Jones, a budget official with the U.S. Department of Education.
The president's proposed 2006 budget represents increases of more
than 50 percent in Title I funds and 75 percent in special education
funds since the president took office, Jones said.
Connecticut's Title I allocation this year showed a slight decline
because the population of poor and disadvantaged children grew
by just 2.4 percent between 2000 and 2002, compared with a national
rate of 5.7 percent, federal figures show.
"Very simply, the money is following where the poor children
are," Jones said.
Nevertheless, a 3 percent increase in Title I funds this year
has not kept pace with the national growth in childhood poverty,
said an analysis of Title I funding by the Center on Education
Policy, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group for public schools.
Although cities such as New York, Los Angeles and Chicago will
receive substantial increases, about two-thirds of the nation's
Title I school districts will get less Title I money this year,
the report said.
Connecticut is one of many states that have lodged complaints
about No Child Left Behind.
State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has threatened to sue
the U.S. Department of Education, contending the law will cost
state and local taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. Educators
say this year's decline in federal funds will put additional strain
on state and local school budgets.
The state legislature passed a resolution in late June supporting
the lawsuit, but Gov. M. Jodi Rell has not said whether she will
sign the resolution.
The increases in federal money in recent years have not kept pace
with state or local costs related to No Child Left Behind, according
to two recent reports by state education officials.
One of those reports included a case study of New Haven public
schools, estimating that by 2008, the city will have spent about
$150 million in staff time and actual dollars in efforts to comply
with the law - about $10 million more than the federal government
will have sent to the school system.
New Haven's federal support "has gone down slightly when
there were supposed to be major increases," said Reginald
Mayo, the city's school superintendent.
Under the law, "They'll be identifying more and more schools
[for improvement]. The bar goes up each year," he said.
"If you really want to
make a difference in urban education, you've got to put money
into it, just like you do in Iraq. ... Let's bring the guys home
from Iraq and pump the money into education.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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