The blogger known as “Red Queen in LA” responds to a petition she posted here, asking the Los Angeles school board not to remove those schools in which 40-49% of students are poor from their source of Federal funding, called Title I. She also notes that charter schools receive Title I funding even if they have a tiny proportion of students below the poverty line.


She writes:


Mike, did you read the essay highlighted above? This one:

It may not add more of the hard information you are looking for, but it is certainly available. Allow me to try to address some of the issues you raise.

Most important, is the presumption that funding the 40-49% poverty concentration (pc) schools will necessitate “robbing Peter to pay Paul” — or as you put it: “I am sure the schools with a poverty rate more than 50% would not be happy with the proposed change, losing some of their Title I funds, in order to also include the 40-50% range.”

I’ll get to a substantive argument against this point in a moment. But from an emotional vantage, which is what you are channeling when you say ‘I am sure the schools …would not be happy with…’, let me just state for the record that my own child attends a 50%+ school and I am more than happy with this change. This is just one family at one school, and obviously isn’t very weighty in some sense. But it is not the case that everyone is strictly aligned regarding this according to what happens to be in their very own pocket. No way. This is a question of distributing title I funds equitably to children and schools that *need it*. And it is a question of challenging the presumption that we cannot “afford” this equitable distribution.

So here’s the more important argument: these 40-49% schools can be funded with the title I monies to which they are entitled *without taking a single solitary dime from any current title I school — that is from any school of 50%+ pc*. This resolution does not seek to instruct how the policy would be implemented because this is not in the purview of the board (this is perhaps debatable but is at least a conservative reading of the balance of power). However, from looking at past budgets, it is hard to see why monies that are currently going to title I schools directly need be in any way affected.

The amount of money needed to provide supplemental title I funds to schools of 40-49% poverty concentration is less than $1.4M.

By studying past budgets the following appears to be true. Note that attempts to request numbers from the district to clarify this research have all been rebuffed. But to the best of our understanding, the amount of money budgeted for _administrative_ title I costs last year (these have not yet been budgeted for the coming year we just counted for title I-eligibility, so this contrast is an estimate as it uses figures from two different years) is *five* times higher than the entire additional amount needed for these 40-49% schools. The amount of money budgeted for _indirect_ costs is *six* times as great as what is needed for these schools. And the amount of money budgeted for _”Other”_ programs, *including monies carried over from the previous year that were _just never spent to ameliorate poverty at all_*, is approximately *seventy-nine* times that $1.4M needed to provide schools of 40%-49% poverty concentration with title I funds. The amount of title I funds devoted to “Other” programs rather than being given to the kids in need at our schools directly, was $110.4M in 2012-13. That’s fully >>_34%_<< of LAUSD’s entire 2012-13 $328.7M title I “receipts” (the district “bills” the state for title I funds, which come ultimately from the federal government). More than one-third of the title I funds received by LAUSD from the federal government for the purpose of supplementing academic needs among our economically disadvantaged children, did not go to our kids directly.

More questions: “don’t the feds decide what poverty level Title I funds go to?”. No, they do not. The guidelines are quite loosely provided about some stringent limits. Schools with pc above 75% must receive title I funds. Schools with pc down to 35% may receive title I funds. How the local educational agency chooses to distribute funds within these outer limits is up to them. LAUSD has a long history of funding title I schools with pc from 40-65% at 75% the rate of funding for schools of pc 65%+ (that is, the per capita funding rate is less in schools of lower poverty concentration). This resolution seeks to return that historical distribution that was altered in the wake of the aftermath of title I distributions that were temporarily inflated as a result of federal stimulus funds, that LAUSD failed to budget for the cessation of. Please see the above-referenced article for a lot of references to the title I rules and history.

You also ask: “What is being done with the money saved by changing the threshold from 40% to 50%? Going to pet projects of Deasy?” ….. Please see the “more substantive” response above. It would be awfully nice to know what that $110.4M “Other projects” is for. Some of it includes funds carried over between years. This may not be legal. What the rest of it is for, is entirely unclear. It would be nice if the LAUSD budget office received several thousand inquiries regarding this. Ours have gone unanswered. Why the federal government is not more curious about the disposition of their monies is also rather unclear to me. There was a federal audit recently of title III monies; perhaps the auditors should expand their scrutiny?

You claim that upon halting title I distributions to schools of 40-49% pc the money saved “…didn’t go to Deasy. It meant that more Title I funds went to those schools where 50% or more of the students families are considered poverty level.” With all due respect I must ask: how do you know? When funding was cut for the 40-49% schools, the resulting per capita rate for both 65%+ and <65% pc schools both remained higher than prior to the artificially augmented stimulus years. There has been an unbroken ramping up of per capita title I funds yearly. In what way does it seem that unspent 40-49% funds went to augment 65%+ funds? In fact, during every one of these years before and after the cessation of 40-49% pc title I funding, the yearly carryover in title I funds was adequate to cover the amount needed to fund the 40-49% schools. In what way does money saved in this way equate to augmented funds for 65%+ schools?

I agree there are two sides to this issue. But they are not staked out across a divide between schools. All schools are in the same boat here; we are all educating children of very limited means. And the title I-eligible students in schools of 40% pc are just exactly as poor as the children in schools of 80% pc. An argument could be made that the students attending schools of middling poverty concentration could need comparatively more rather than fewer anti-poverty funds to level their own particular playing field. I have not seen this argument made theoretically or explicitly but it is certainly commented about among families informally; this is what it feels like to us in “the field”. And yet note that the funds which would be disbursed to the 40-49% schools are a fraction that dispersed to the 65%+ schools anyway (25% fewer funds per capita go to schools <65% pc).

As for the reputation of the two sponsoring board members, recall that this is a complicated world we live in. I have had some conversations with the one “we like” that caused quite a bit of consternation in terms of what “we like”. That’s just me and YMMV, but sometimes it does not serve well to look deeper for motivation. Sometimes one just treats the symptoms.

Conversely, the sponsoring board member “we do not like” (and I *so* do agree with you here!!!), is nevertheless sponsoring a resolution that increases educational equity. I may disagree with most everything she does in general and in specific. But here, for whatever reasons, she is, IMHO, right. And I choose not to look deeper than the immediate action on the surface. If I did, and did not fight for this resolution, thousands of children would be ill-served. If I did, and did not fight for this resolution, we might miss the opportunity to shed some light on those $110.4M worth of “other programs”. Some greater accountability for title I funds would be rather excellent. Taxpayers across the nation will benefit from that.

But as I said, I do agree there are two sides to this issue, but I did not complete the explication of where they fall. They do not fall on either side of this 50% threshold. That would be pitting friend against friend. Again, the children of poverty on either side of this divide are just as poor regardless of the divide. And the monies do not have to come from one to support the other.

No, the divide is between the children in our schools, the children who are *entitled to these funds*, and the adults disbursing these funds somewhere, anywhere other than _to these children directly_. The problem is with the opacity of the LAUSD budget, and the near-impossibility of following its money. Perhaps there is not enough money and we’re all just f-ed. But until the LAUSD budget office explains that carryover that is larger than the funds needed for the 40-49%, or explains the “other programs” or releases a full and detailed line-item accounting of title I funds, I will be hard-pressed to see any division other than that which delineates the children of LAUSD from the central administration of LAUSD.

Finally, you mentioned that ‘most of the 40-49% schools are located in the valley’. At the time of defunding that was true; 23 schools were defunded of which — can’t find my notes for the precise figures on this but perhaps another will chime in with them — many if not most were indeed in the valley at this time. However subsequently, most of these valley schools became independent charters for the express purpose of receiving these title I funds directly from the state. LAUSD is no longer “billed” by these schools for title I funds; they receive them directly from the state. These schools are gone from the LAUSD system, as a direct result of this defunding move. For this current year there are just 16 schools in the 40-49% pc category. 1 is in LAUSD2, 8 in LAUSD3, 4 in LAUSD4, 1 in LAUSD5, 1 in LAUSD6, 1 in LAUSD6. You are correct that the majority of schools fall in the valley, though the actual number of affected students are very nearly equal in LAUSD3 and LAUSD4. No matter, the point is: support is more complicated than a simple accounting of number and location of schools.

Finally, note this lovely little factlet. While LAUSD is pretzeling itself over this issue of poverty concentration and some sliding point at which desperate need is pinpointed, charter schools blithely bill the state for per capita title I funding *completely independent of poverty concentration*. That’s right, if you’re a charter school of 2000 and 3 of your students are title I-eligible, you’ll receive those title I funds for the asking.

So there’s another divide. But it’s not between the +/- 50% poverty concentrated.

Please Mike and any/everyone else — please follow the links in this article for some primary sources on poverty I funding:

Please ask more questions if necessary.

Please sign this petition:

And please come out to the board meeting this Tuesday at 4pm to request that LAUSD stop robbing the 40-49% “Peter” to pay for the LAUSD downtown-administrator’s “other projects-Paul”.