Several Title I schools throughout East Tennessee are bracing for major funding cuts for the 2017-2018 year.
Title I is a federal program that funds local school systems with high poverty rates. But for some systems, as much as a 13 percent reduction in spending could mean cutting intervention programs and, in at least one case, staff.
In the Oneida Special School District, all three of its schools qualify for Title I funds. For years, the district’s intervention program grouped at-risk students together and paired them with other students struggling with a particular skill.
“It allows small group instruction, all hands on deck, which means there’s a lot of adults working with students,” said Oneida Special School District Superintendent Jeanny Hatfield.
But Hatfield said a nearly $70,000 cut to its Title I funds will force the school system to lay off two of its teaching assistants.
“$70,000 is a big hit to a district as small as we are,” said Hatfield.
In nearby Scott County Schools, Superintendent Billy Hall said his school system anticipates a reduction of $90,000 in Title I funds.
“Some of the supplementary things we use such as accelerated reading and math, we didn’t cut out completely, but we did have to scale back,” he said.
Hall said that means certain grades in some schools may no longer offer accelerated reading or math. He said the district will not be cutting staff, however.
Both Knox County and Hamblen County anticipate a 13 percent reduction in funds. For Hamblen County Schools, that means a $200,000 loss in Title I funding, which Director of Schools Tim Blankenship called a “dramatic decrease” for its intervention program.
“We do not understand why the grant to support learning in high poverty schools would be decreased,” he wrote to 10News in an email.
A Tennessee Department of Education spokesperson said Tennessee received fewer federal funds in part because the state now has a lower poverty rate relative to other states.
The department pointed to several other possible reasons, including higher income levels in the state and fewer school-aged children, before referring 10News to the U.S. Department of Education.
U.S. Department of Education said it calculates Title I allocations for school districts based in large part on annually updated school district poverty estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.