NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Reforming Title I

April 16, 1999

Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Act concerns grants of federal funds to states, which allocate them to the neediest local school districts -- those with a high proportion of poor children. The Act, originally passed 32 years ago, will soon be up for renewal and critics suggest the money would be better spent on vouchers which students could use to attend any accredited school.

Some experts say the $120 billion that has been spent on the program over the years -- aimed at closing the educational gap between rich and poor children and minorities -- has actually impeded their learning. While the gap in test scores between black and white, rich and poor narrowed into the mid-1980s, it has since widened.

Here are some ways educational experts think Title I should be reformed:

  • Diane Ravitch, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a former assistant education secretary, says that right now we are "funding bureaucracies, instead of students" and suggests that funds go to parents in the form of scholarships resembling federal Pell grants -- which are available to low-income students who want to go to college.
  • Others recommend giving the states block grants and setting them free of Washington regulations -- so they could allocate the money as they see fit, but be held accountable for results.
  • Title I reforms dating from 1994 required states to adopt standards and test Title I students to make sure they're improving -- and the Clinton administration wants to give those reforms more time to work.
  • Since Title I teachers tend to have less schooling and content knowledge than the average teacher, Congress could require Title I teachers to have college degrees or teacher certificates.

But the White House would oppose vouchers and President Clinton wants the federal government to attach more -- not fewer -- strings to federal funds. Moreover, requiring schools to be more choosy in the teachers they hire runs counter to the administration's emphasis on hiring more teachers and cutting class sizes.

Source: Anna Bray Duff, "Is Title I Overdue for Overhaul?" Investor's Business Daily, April 16, 1999.


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