Rural U.S. Schools Victims of Unfair Funding Formula

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Jennifer Kaleba: 202.640.6613 (W); 202.258.8842 (M)

WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 12, 2011) — In an effort to close a formulaic loophole in education funding that discriminates against small, rural school districts, today, Representative Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (R-Pa.) and Representative G. K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) introduced the All Children are Equal (ACE) Act.

The ACE Act would reform Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which provides funds to local school districts to improve the education of disadvantaged students. Currently, the “number weighting” formula used to determine greatest need has the unintended effect of diverting funding away from higher-poverty school districts to lower-poverty school districts, regardless of the actual poverty rate.

“On paper, this might be nothing more than a technical mistake,” says Mark Shriver, Senior Vice President of Save the Children’s U.S. Programs. “But the victims, however unintentional, are our most disadvantaged, underserved children whose educational opportunities are already at risk.”

In this case, the devil is in the details. The need of school districts is rated on an optional one of two scales: percentage of disadvantaged students or total number of disadvantaged students. The total number formula (number weighting) is given the greater value in determining need. Thus, in a twist of mathematic inevitability, more than $50 million in Title 1-funding is unfairly directed away from small, rural schools to larger, more populous districts.

Many of these rural schools, including ones where Save the Children works, have much higher poverty rates compared to the larger schools receiving these funds. Nationally, more than 10,000 school districts lose funding because of number weighting; 281 of the 340 highest poverty districts are hurt by number weighting. The proposed reformation would be a gradually decrease number weighting over a four- year period to create a level playing field for all children, as originally intended.

“Rural communities already have fewer resources than their urban counterparts, and losing this crucial funding is not only wrong, but also a clear contradiction of the program’s intent,” says Shriver.

In rural America, one in four children lives in poverty. These children are both educationally and financially disadvantaged compared to their urban and suburban peers. Save the Children’s U.S. Programs works in more than 150 low-income, rural communities, providing key services including early childhood education, literacy, and health and wellness programs with the goal of ensuring that children have the skills they need to succeed academically.

About Formula Fairness Campaign

Save the Children is a co-sponsor of the Formula Fairness Campaign which seeks to end discrimination against small rural and urban school districts in the distribution of federal funds for the education of disadvantaged students under Title 1 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Other co-sponsors include a diverse range of organizations: American Association of School Administrators,  National Alliance of Black School Educators, Arkansas Rural Education Association,  California Small School Districts’ Association, Center for Rural Affairs, Challenge West Virginia, National Rural Education Advocacy Coalition, Rural Community Alliance (AR), The Rural School and Community Trust, Save Alabama’s Small schools, South Carolina Rural Education Grassroots Group, Tennessee School Systems for Equity, YouthBuild, USA.

To view full bill text, click here. To view a bill summary, click here.

About Save the Children’s U.S. Programs

Save the Children’s U.S. Programs works to break the cycle of poverty and improve the lives of children by ensuring they have the resources they need – like access to a quality education, healthy foods and opportunities to grow and develop in a nurturing environment. When disasters strike, like hurricanes and wildfires, Save the Children is among the first on the ground ensuring the needs of children are being met. Save the Children’s early childhood education, literacy, physical activity and nutrition, and emergency response programs reached more than 75,000 children in the United States last year alone. For more information visit

Save the Children is the leading, independent organization that creates lasting change for children in need in the United States and around the world. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

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