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Oregon Schools See Increase In Title One Funds

Oregon schools are about to get a big financial boost. In fact, it's the biggest increase in federal education funding in five years.

Those numbers are  part of a new national report from the Center on Education Policy, released Tuesday. As Rob Manning reports, the increase is a silver lining on Oregon’s cloud of increasing child poverty.

Oregon’s 15 percent gain is among the biggest in the country, and it’s based in part on double-digit growth in the number of kids living in poverty.

The increase is also thanks to Congress giving an eight percent boost to the low-income federal education fund.

Jack Jennings is with the Center on Education Policy - a think tank that analyzed what’s called “Title One” money.

Jack Jennings: “The good news is that there will be extra federal money to help with the education of poor children. Now, Oregon unfortunately has a higher than average in the number of poor children. Oregon will get extra money to help meet the needs of those children.”

But the assistance doesn’t benefit all school districts equally. Distribution of “Title One” money depends on where poor kids live, with an emphasis on districts with a whole lot of poor students.

In Oregon, the Portland Public School district will see a nearly 30 percent jump in Title One funds. That’s largely thanks to an increase in the number of the city’s children who live below the federal poverty line.

Matt Shelby, with Portland Public Schools, says the money will likely help the district’s youngest kids.

Matt Shelby: “We fund a large portion of our full-day kindergarten program in Title One schools with that federal Title One allotment. And so an increase in that will help us keep pace with some of the increases we’ve seen.”

But other districts didn’t fare as well. The Beaverton school district - where roughly one in three students are poor enough to qualify for free or reduced lunch - got less than a three percent increase.

And some of the biggest allocations per student were in small rural areas - like the Mitchell School District in eastern Oregon, and the Blachly district, in Lane County.

Title One funding doesn't just help poor kids, it also provides some funding for the No Child Left Behind act.

Critics have railed against the law, saying the money has been woefully inadequate .  Last year was the most substantial increase in Title One since 2003.

Jack Jennings: “This is an acknowledgement by the Congress that the federal government has an obligation not just to ask for more accountability in the schools, but to provide additional money for schools to meet that accountability."

Again, Jack Jennings with the Center for Education Policy. But he's not patting Congress on the back quite yet.

Jack Jennings: “This is a step in the right direction, but it’s nowhere near where the federal government should be for what it’s asking school districts and states to do.”

Oregon schools saw an enormous increase in the number of schools failing to meet federal standards on last year’s assessment tests.

Congress has offered up a substantial increase in funding for schools labeled as “needing improvement,” but whether it’s enough, is another question.

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