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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Title I schools shortchanged, federal report states



It's no secret that school districts in the Tampa Bay area, as in most other parts of Florida and the nation, assign teachers to schools as units without regard to their levels of experience or their salaries. The rationale is that principals hire teachers they say best fit their needs, and are not bound by budgets.

The problem, according to a new US Department of Education report, is that schools that are supposed to be getting additional federal Title I funding to boster their programs are instead being shortchanged because they generally hire less experienced, less expensive teachers. As a result, they get less money per student than some non-Title I schools.

"Educators across the country understand that low-income students need extra support and resources to succeed, but in far too many places policies for assigning teachers and allocating resources are perpetuating the problem rather than solving it," U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a release. "The good news in this report is that it is feasible for districts to address this problem and it will have a significant impact on educational opportunities for our nation's poorest children." 

Florida data (see attachment below) offered examples of the disparities:

  • Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Elementary in Pinellas, a Title I school, is listed as spending $2,226 per student on salaries, compared to $2,823 per student at Anona Elementary, a non-Title I school.
  • In Pasco, non-Title I school Sand Pine Elementary is listed as spending $2,770 per student on salaries, compared to $2,121 per student at Cox Elementary, a Title I school. 

"This report confirms that the problem of poor kids getting less than their fair share of state and local resources is real in many places, but it is also of a scope that can be addressed without bankrupting school districts," Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said in a release. "Closing this loophole by requiring districts to include actual teacher salaries in their accounting is one of the most significant steps we can take to ensure every child receives the resources they deserve.  The Department’s report makes it clear that the time has come to make this change."

The department also collected additional information from five states including Florida for a more in-depth report that will be issued later.

This issue has been talked about, but not acted upon, for years. The big question is, should schools be hiring teachers based on their salaries in order to ensure students get their share of funding? Or should they continue to hire the way they do now, letting the dollars and cents fall where they may?

It appears an issue of equity vs. equality, and they're not the same thing. Your thoughts?

[Last modified: Friday, December 2, 2011 8:03am]


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