The federal government operates a $14.5 billion program aimed at addressing this exact type of education funding inequity. It’s called Title I and it’s the pillar of the federal K-12 law known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
Its purpose is to financially bolster school districts with large proportions of poor children, like Nottoway, so they have access to the same types of learning opportunities as wealthier children – children who often reside in more affluent districts and whose schools benefit from higher property taxes, among many other supports.
Nottoway receives about $775,000 annually from the federal program. And while it’s a welcome financial boost, every cent of it goes toward teacher salaries. There is nothing left over for professional development, curriculum support, or reading and math enrichment programs.
Meanwhile, Fairfax County, a leafy green suburb outside the nation’s capital that’s home to well-heeled government workers who helped it become the first county in the U.S. to reach a median household income of six figures, rakes in a whopping $20 million in Title I funding.
The notion that federal funding wasn’t as targeted as it should be isn’t new, but the numbers were pretty startling, and the package made it easy for readers to find out what their local funding allocation was.
The package was the work of Lauren Camera, education reporter, and Lindsey Cook, data editor. When originally it came out, the USNews series had noted that at least $2.6 billion in federal education funding is being sent to districts that are wealthier on average.
It had generated some buzz among reporters at local outlets who have taken the USNews data and written their own stories. (These included Liz Bowie from Balt Sun.) But Cook and Camera wanted more.
A longtime fan of using Reddit for reporting on previous stories, Cook came up with the idea of the pair of journalists doing an “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) on Reddit as a way of reaching a different set of folks than those who follow US News.
The federal redistributed tac dollars note that Madison’s poverty rate is 20.37%. This number is substantially lower than the District’s free and reduced cost lunch population.