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Title I funds returned to neediest schools

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After more than a year of organizing, members of the Eastern Pennsylvania Organizing Project (EPOP) have negotiated a change in the District's Title I funding formula that will restore some Title I funds to schools with high poverty levels.

A federal program, Title I targets funds to schools with high-poverty levels. The School District receives an allotment of Title I funding each year and decides how to distribute it to schools. For several years, all District schools have received a minimum base amount of Title I funds, and schools that have higher numbers of children in poverty have received funding above the base.

In 2003, CEO Paul Vallas drew fire from parents at high-poverty schools when he increased the base amount of Title I funds that all schools receive from $75,000 to $250,000. Because Title I funds come from a fixed pot of money, the increased base meant that many higher-poverty schools saw drastic cuts to their budgets as funding for schools with lower poverty rates increased.

Under the agreement negotiated with EPOP, the District returned to a base amount of $75,000, but for the 2004-2005 school year has a "hold harmless" provision guaranteeing schools a minimum of 75 percent of their Title I funds from last school year. Schools that received last year's base of $250,000 will receive at least $187,500 for 2004-2005. High-poverty schools will see a restoration of some of the Title I funds that were cut in their budgets last year.

"This is not denying dollars to any school; this is about putting money in the pot where the schools need it the most," said EPOP leader Dolores Shaw. "It's a victory for parents, organizers, and everyone who fought hard for this reduction."

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