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South Salt Lake Journal

What exactly is a Title 1 school?

Jan 05, 2024 01:14PM ● By Ella Joy Olsen

Taylorsville Elementary is one of many Utah schools receiving Title 1 funding which is intended to provide all children significant opportunity to receive a fair, equitable, and high-quality education, and to close educational achievement gaps. (Ella Joy Olsen/City Journals)

School is in full swing and children across the valley are filling desks and playgrounds - bright kids with bright faces seeking bright futures through education. 

Regarding the school in your neighborhood, or the school your child attends, a question tossed about by parents, teachers and community members is, “Is it a Title 1 school?” 

But what exactly is a Title 1 school and what does it mean in terms of funding, programs and student body?

First a little history. 

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was signed into law in 1965 by President Lyndon Baines Johnson, in his war on poverty. He believed that “full educational opportunity” should be “our first national goal.”

ESEA offered grants to districts serving low-income students, federal grants for textbooks and library books, funding for special education centers, and scholarships for low-income college students. Additionally, the law provided federal grants to state educational agencies to improve the quality of elementary and secondary education. 

This original Congressional act provides Title 1 funding.

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is the most recent Congressional reauthorization of the ESEA. President Barack Obama signed this into law in 2015.

The version of the ESEA (prior to the ESSA) was the No Child Left Behind Act signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2001.

What stats define a Title 1 school?

Schools in an educational district are ranked on the percentage (not the number) of low income children in each school. The numbers are based on U. S. Census Bureau counts of school-age children (ages 5-17).

Any school with 75% of their student body population determined to be economically disadvantaged must be provided funding. Once schools at or above 75% economically disadvantaged student population have been served, the district may serve other schools in rank order, down to schools that are at or above 35% economically disadvantaged.

A school must have a poverty rate of at least 35% to receive funds.

According to Max Lang, ESEA Programs and Related State Initiatives Coordinator at the Utah State Board of Education, “Around 40% of Utah schools receive Title 1 funding, in some form.”

The state provides a list of schools that qualify for Title 1 funding available at: 

How much money are we talking about?

The State of Utah received, “Exactly $75,722,863 in federal funding this year,” Lang said. And according to the Brookings Institute, in 2021 Congress appropriated $16.5 billion countrywide through Title 1.

The money is allocated to schools in a tiered fashion. Funding tiers are determined using four statutory formulas, run through the state and individual districts, so funding will be allocated as fairly as possible and will meet the schools with highest needs first. Schools may be eligible for funding as determined by one, two or more tiers according to the formulas. 

Documentation on the formulas and their application tends to get into the weeds regarding all of the specifics, and isn’t easy reading, but for a comprehensive overview of the formulas see: 

How do Title 1 schools spend their money?

The purpose of Title I funding is to provide all children significant opportunity to receive a fair, equitable, and high-quality education, and to close educational achievement gaps.

The programs within a Title 1 school are decided on an individual school-by-school basis. “Ideally in a plan developed by all stakeholders—principal, staff, parents and sometimes students,” Lang said.

Oftentimes schools will use the funds for increased training for teachers to respond to the unique challenges present in the school, instructional supports and non-instructional supports such as behavior and mentoring, counseling and prevention. Funds are also used for staffing of paraprofessionals. 

Another area of emphasis is parent and family engagement. Parents are encouraged to come into the school and see how they can take learning strategies home to incorporate them with their children. 

There is no class size requirement written into Title 1 law. “More and more research is indicating that class size alone doesn’t make a difference in educational outcomes,” Lang said. Solutions that focus solely on smaller class size are insufficient. Additional and unique approaches based on specific challenges within a school appear to be more effective.

Title 1 funds may not be used for things like: food for meetings unless the event is being held for the specific purpose of parent and family engagement. Fieldtrips, intramural activities, uniforms, school supplies…unless necessary to support students who meet the definition of homeless. Also, no class rings, prom gowns or drivers’ test fees, according to the Utah State Board of Education (USBE) Title 1 Handbook.

Does Title 1 funding work?

According to the audit report for the State of Utah, at this point Title 1 schools have been unable to wholly and sufficiently address educational inequities to raise student achievement. Disparities may be explained by family and community factors and resources, and are often underpinned by systemic inequities. The wide variety of family, community and systemic factors are not currently tracked in education data systems, but demographics appear to be stronger predictors of educational achievement than spending.

Since some research suggests a tenuous link between spending and student performance, it’s likely not simply an issue of how much was spent, but how well it was spent to help students. λ