April 13, 1999

April 13, 1999 | News Releases on Education

Largest Federal Education Program has Failed to Close Achievement...

WASHINGTON, APRIL 13, 1999-As Congress prepares to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965, a new Heritage Foundation study says Title I-the act's chief component and the federal government's largest education program-has failed to accomplish its mission to close the gap in academic achievement between rich and poor children.

Title I will spend $7.7 billion this fiscal year on supplemental aid for more than 11 million poor children, half of them below the poverty line. Since 1965, the federal government has poured more than $120 billion into Title I programs, without improving the relative achievement levels of poor students, says Heritage Foundation Education Policy Analyst Nina Shokraii Rees.

In her review of the longitudinal studies of Title I students conducted in the late 1970s and early 1990s, Rees finds that their performance improved at the same rate as "nondisadvantaged" students, but that Title I aid failed to narrow the gap between poor and other students. And while a more recent national assessment of Title 1 by the Department of Education did show poor students increasing their reading and math scores, the progress cannot be correlated to the effects of Title I, Rees says.

"The upcoming ESEA reauthorization offers Congress the perfect opportunity to refocus Title I's attention on its original mission," Rees says. Among her recommendations:

  • Congress should give the states more flexibility in using Title I funds in exchange for agreed-on academic improvements by disadvantaged students in all racial groups. Decentralizing Title I to let states spend their share of funds according to their individual needs would sharpen the program's focus on boosting academic results.

  • Congress should encourage states to tie Title I funding to students, not to school systems. This would avoid concentrating Title I dollars in a few schools while 4 million low-income students elsewhere go unserved. It would also permit funding to accompany students to charter schools, which now receive little or no Title I assistance even though they enroll large numbers of disadvantaged children.

  • Congress should allow parents of children in the 7,000 schools identified by states as low-performing to redeem their children's Title I funds for use at other schools of their choosing. This "school choice" provision would permit students to escape from wholly inadequate educational environments and, at the same time, provide an incentive to failing schools to improve their performance.

"Title I has failed to accomplish its core mission," Rees says. If Congress fails to reform the program, "Title I will continue to waste taxpayer dollars while disadvantaged kids remain trapped in poverty," she says.

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