The regulations for Title I grants sit on my desk in two enormous binders. The rules regarding appropriate use of Title I money are complex, but understandable. The key to managing your application budget is to remember the funds are for a certain number of carefully selected students in your district who are least able to fend for themselves, including Special Education students. Special education students are eligible for Title I services on the same basis as all other students. You cannot exclude them just because they are already receiving extra services, as that would be discrimination.
Districts base their allocations for Title I on a strict formula that stems from the number of students receiving free and/or reduced lunch. It boils down to a per pupil allowance, once you have your allocation, you need to sit down and work on your set-asides.
What’s a set-aside? The funds are a guarantee you will provide certain specific services within your district. One of these guarantees is for private school students. This is a regulation that requires some adjustments in thinking. What on earth are we doing funneling Title I funds to students who attend private schools in our district? By their very nature, aren’t these kids better equipped to achieve high levels of academic achievement than others who come from low-income homes? I have struggled with this over the years, but I’ve finally made some peace with it. Many private school children receive free and reduced lunch; so, if this is the guideline, and they are “our” kids, we should be helping them with Title I.
Each year the private school leadership teams in our district send over a list of their students who receive free and reduced lunch. I use a formula to determine a per pupil allocation for these students, and provide the private schools with guidance on how they can spend the money. If the student would not receive services at their resident public school, then they do not receive services at the private school. A tricky situation is created at this point. How much oversight can you apply to the private schools to make sure they are spending it correctly? The public school has the right to investigate any indications of fund misuse. The best way is to make sure Title I funds you spend for services in your public schools are available to eligible children in the private schools. If you have an after school program for Title I, just invite private school children.
The private schools in our district (a large poor urban district) always want to hire teachers with their funds. The problem with this is obvious; are the teachers hired dealing strictly with only Title I children? They cannot be general teachers in the regular private school environment. We encourage them to avail themselves of our Title I programs instead.
Each year you must provide timely guidance and consulting with private school officials to be sure there is agreement and accord regarding all issues related to this funding. I’ve learned to enjoy these meetings; we have doughnuts and coffee (not paid for with Title I funds) and we have a chance to catch up. It’s a good way to share ideas about curriculum, standards and other shared concerns.
In our district, all of our schools have enrollments of over 35% who receive free and reduced lunch. This is the legal cutoff for having a school-wide program as opposed to a targeted assistance program. We have elected to make them all school-wide programs. A school-wide program allows you the greatest flexibility for ways to spend the dollars.
In other blogs, I’ll elaborate on other fine points in managing Title I funds. There are many other fine points that are worth exploring. Here are some good resources for managing your private school Title I concerns.
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