By Brittany Jablonsky, NFU government relations representative

Beginning today, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce plans to markup H.R. 3989, the Student Success Act. One of the amendments to this legislation that the committee plans to consider has particular implications for rural schools ­ an amendment based on H.R. 2485, the All Children Are Equal (ACE) Act.

The ACE Act, sponsored by Reps. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., and G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., reforms the current number weighting system used to distribute federal funds to school districts with low-income children, also known as Title I funds because of the section of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in which the grants were authorized. The current formula is based on two factors: the number of disadvantaged students, and the percentage of disadvantaged students.

School districts in which more than two percent of the students come from low-income families are eligible for basic grants under Title I. However, additional “concentration grants” are distributed to schools where the number of low-income children exceeds 6,500, thereby directing more funds to large urban schools and barring rural schools with a high rate of poverty but low population from receiving the funds they need.

The Formula Fairness Campaign, endorsed by National Farmers Union, outlines in detail exactly how the formula is calculated using two school districts that are vastly different in size but with nearly identical percentages of disadvantaged students. Because of number weighting, one student at the school with 70,947 of 244,500, or 29 percent, disadvantaged students, receives the funding equivalent of 2.69 students. One student at the school with 310 of 1,110, or 28 percent, disadvantaged students receives the amount of funding designated for one student.

Although the Student Success Act is expected to pass out of the committee along party lines, with only Republican support, NFU is hopeful the ACE amendment will garner significant bipartisan support in order to elevate, and resolve, this important issue. Rural students face a number of challenges to receiving a quality education. It’s time that equal funding isn’t one of them.

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