Friday, February 18, 2011

Kansas HB2193 would change the definition of "At-Risk" students - Here's what that means to you!

House Bill 2193 would change the State’s definition of “At-Risk” and allow for the redistribution of scarce Title I Funds. Federal Title I Funds are allocated to the States and are intended to help school districts address the issues associated with urban poverty. They are distributed to the States based on the number of children within the districts who qualify for free or reduced lunches.

Title I funds are intended to compensate for the fact that children who grow up in poverty are far less likely to have an educational support system at home as parents who are struggling to provide basic necessities are often unable to spend much quality time with their children. Children who grow up in poverty are also far more likely to spend large amounts of time in poor quality daycare, a situation which is known to have a negative impact on a child's emotional health. Children who grow up in poverty also move more frequently and are far more likely to attend under-funded schools. And teenagers who live in poverty are significantly more likely to experiment with drugs, alcohol, and risky sexual behavior. Poor teens are also more likely to engage in unlawful acts, ranging from minor shoplifting to serious gang activity.

HB2193 would honor the intent of “At-Risk” funding only until the fourth grade. After the fourth grade, the bill would change the State’s definition of “At-Risk” to include any students who failed standardized tests. This would be a windfall for rural districts and districts without a significant number of poor or minority students, as they would be able to divert some of the federal dollars, that had been earmarked for combating the insidious effects of urban poverty, for use in their own facilities.

But a far greater concern is what this proposal could do to efforts to eliminate the academic achievement gap. This proposal, under the guise of distributing federal dollars to all students who need help, would directly tie school funding to the number of students who fail to meet proficiency standards on standardized tests. This legislation would de-incentivize efforts to eliminate the academic achievement gap by penalizing schools for improved outcomes. Why would districts continue to invest in improving minority student outcomes, if better test scores would lead to concomitant reductions in school funding?

The Kansas State Conference of NAACP Branches supports the original language and intent of Title I funding and we are fighting to defeat this bill.

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