COCHRAN COSPONSORS EDUCATION FAIRNESS MEASURE
TO HELP LOW-INCOME SCHOOLS

Lead Cosponsor on Bill to Ensure Better Distribution of Federal Title I
Education Funds

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) today joined in
introducing legislation to improve the distribution of federal education
funding meant to improve achievement in schools with high concentrations of
low-income students.

Cochran is the primary cosponsor of legislation offered Thursday by Senator
Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) to close a loophole in Title I of the Elementary
and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The ESEA Fiscal Fairness Act would
require school districts to more accurately report their state and local
education expenditures when seeking Title I funding.

“This legislation seeks to ensure that school districts receiving Title I
funds provide their high-poverty schools with a fair share of state and
local resources by closing loopholes in the requirement language,” Cochran
said. “By requiring a more accurate picture of state and local investments
in schools, federal funding can be better directed to the children most in
need of those resources.”

Enacted in 1965, Title I is intended to provide schools with additional
resources-above state and local expenditures-to help children in poverty
reach higher education achievement levels.

Under current law, a school district must first meet a “comparability
requirement” that shows that it is spending state and local resources
equally among high-poverty and low-poverty schools. However, exclusions on
counting individual teacher salaries and other reporting practices can
allow a district to meet this requirement without actually providing
equitable funding to schools.

To close this loophole, the ESEA Fiscal Fairness Act would require all
expenditures to be included in comparability determinations, including
differences in teacher salaries due to years of experience. The measure
stipulates that state and local spending must be at least 97 percent
similar between high- and low-income schools. It would also require public
reporting of per-pupil expenditures in each school within a district.

“All too often, well-intentioned policies hatched in Washington do not work
the way they were intended once they reach America’s classrooms, and that’s
exactly the case with the ‘comparability’ provision under Title I,” said
Bennet, former superintendent of the Denver Public Schools. “We are one of
only three developed countries to pump more money into affluent schools
than low-income schools. That needs to change, and closing this loophole is
a common-sense step we can take to ensure every single student has a shot
at a quality, competitive education.”

“This legislation would bring basic fairness to budgeting by school
districts, holding them accountable for using federal dollars as Congress
intends,” said Kati Haycock, president of The Education Trust, an education
advocacy organization. “By introducing this bill today, Sens. Bennet and
Cochran have taken a commonsense approach to ensuring that high-poverty
schools receive the funds they need to help their students achieve.”

Cochran serves on the Senate appropriations subcommittee that provides
funding for the U.S. Department of Education. He is also a member of the
Senate Rural Education Caucus, a bipartisan group focused on promoting the
needs and interests of education in small and rural school districts. The
Caucus expects to play a role in the debate this year to reauthorize the No
Child Left Behind education reform law.

Links:
* Mississippi Department of Education, Office of Federal Programs –
http://www.mde.k12.ms.us/innovative_support/TitleIBasic.html
* U.S. Department of Education, Title I –
http://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/leg/esea02/pg1.html
* The Education Trust – http://www.edtrust.org/

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Cochran Press
3/31/11