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Students could lose Title I funding in school mergers

January 15, 2002

Students could lose Title I funding in school mergers



By TARA REILLY
tarar@herald-mail.com


Some students receiving Title I services may lose those benefits if they are sent as a result of redistricting to a school that does not qualify for the federal program, the Washington County Board of Education's supervisor of federal programs said Monday.

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"I'm sure that could happen," William Abbott said. "I wouldn't deny that. There could be winners and there could be losers. It's unfortunate."

It is, he said, "something for the people to be concerned about."

Title I provides financial assistance to help low-achieving students in high-poverty schools meet high standards of performance. Many Title I schools across the state use the federal money to provide additional instructional programs, to increase professional development opportunities for school staff and to promote parental and community involvement, according to the Maryland State Department of Education.

School Board member Mary Wilfong said the school system has the authority to decide how the money is spent and can redistribute the funds, if necessary, among more schools.

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"That can vary at any time," she said.

At least 40 percent of a school's enrollment must receive free and reduced meals for the school to qualify for Title I funding, Abbott said. The school system receives about $2 million in Title I funds, according to the 1999-2000 Maryland State Department of Education Fact Book.

Under Washington County redistricting proposals, 118 students from Eastern Elementary School, which receives Title I funds, would be shifted to Funkstown, Potomac Heights and Pangborn Boulevard elementary schools.

Funkstown and Potomac Heights do not qualify for the Title I program, but Pangborn does.

Currently, 17 percent of Funkstown's students and 33.8 percent of students at Potomac Heights receive free and reduced meals.

Funkstown would gain 32 Eastern students and Potomac Heights would receive 42 students. Potomac Heights would lose 38 students to Fountaindale Elementary.

Abbott said the school system wouldn't know which schools would qualify for Title I funds until new free and reduced meals surveys were distributed at the affected schools and returned to the School Board. That wouldn't happen until after the redistricting recommendations went into effect next school year.

"I have no idea what that picture would look like," Abbott said. "It would all hinge on that final percentage. You live and die by those percentages."

Title I money is distributed among 10 of the county's qualifying schools. Schools with higher percentages receive more money, Abbott said.

The Blue Ribbon Redistricting Committee, which made the enrollment shift recommendation, said the move is necessary to decrease overcrowding at Eastern. Eastern is at 94 percent capacity and has 605 students. If the redistricting recommendation is approved by the School Board, enrollment would drop to 502 students next school year, or 77 percent of capacity, according to the School Board.

Cherrie Williams, PTA president of Eastern, said two of her children would be redistricted to Pangborn and would continue to receive Title I services there.

"It won't be a problem there," because Pangborn already received Title I money, she said.

She said she was not sure how parents of children who would be sent to Potomac Heights and Funkstown would feel about possibly losing Title I services.

"Some of those parents may have a concern," Williams said.

Williams, who has been through two school system redistricting plans, said the process will work out in the end.

"Things all work out, and this will too."

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