Depending on who you ask, you will get a different answer.
“I would love to see more programs that directly impact the students, like more after-school programs or ways to get more parental engagement,” said Valerie Testman.
Testman has a third grader who attended a Title I school last year, and that’s the reason she began looking into the program, including its budgets. She believes the money could be managed to better assist in student achievement.
Testman has brought up these concerns with her local school and central office staff but said “it always seems to fall on deaf ears when you communicate with the district.”
It’s her belief that parental involvement is the key to improving these schools, most of which are located in south Cobb, and about 1 percent of each school’s Title I funding is required by federal law to be used for just that.
Terry Floyd with Cobb Schools said they use it for employing a parent liaison who helps parents and guardians at each school understand the value of parental involvement and how parents are an integral part of their child’s education.
They also hold educational workshops for parents so they can help their child with homework, provide literacy programs for parents and community members and offer an annual summit where parents, the community and business partners can come together to share ideas about the schools.
Testman doesn’t feel like these actions are getting to the parents, though.
Many times she has asked parents if they know what a Title I school means or is and they do not know.
“You can’t force parents to be involved but you shouldn’t make it hard for them not to become involved,” she said.
Southeast Cobb’s Tim Stultz said he’s personally had conversations with principals about their programs and what they do for students and their communities, and he didn’t see any issues.
“I don’t remember ever hearing anything that threw up red flags,” he said.
Stultz represents Osborne High School, as well as five Title I middle schools and eight Title I elementary schools.
He also pointed out that there are many schools in Cobb, 25 to be exact, that are defined as Title I Distinguished Schools, which means they earned Adequately Yearly Progress (AYP) for three years in a row.
“Even though they are Title I, they are performing quite well,” he said.
Constance Carter, Cobb School’s Title I supervisor said improvement is representative in other recognitions as well, like Hendricks Elementary School, formerly Austell Intermediate, being named a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence this fall.
Osborne, Lindley Middle and Fair Oaks Elementary were also recognized by the state as Title I Reward Schools in the “High Progress Category.”
More background on funding
Cobb Schools received $20.6 million in 2012 in federal funding from the national program for its 44 schools and Marietta City School $3.4 million for its nine Title I schools.
“The amount of funds allocated to each Title I school depends on two factors: the number of students enrolled at the school and the school’s poverty percentage,” said Marietta City’s Dr. Adria Griffin. “The higher the poverty percentage, the more Title I money the school receives.”
Title I money can never be put into a district’s General Fund if there are any remaining funds.
“If a school doesn’t spend all of their Title I funds, the (Georgia Department of Education) returns the unspent money to the district the next school year as ‘Title I Carryover Funds,’” she said. “The district then divides the carryover money among the Title I schools based on the school’s poverty ranking.”
The use of funds are determined by each Title I school’s principal, along with a committee of staff and parents who help write the Title I plan, according to Carter.
“This Title I Plan identifies the needs of the school, using their school data,” she said. “Those needs must be aligned with the spending of the Title I funds.”
Carter also said the district’s Title I staff, in addition to the director of intervention and chief academic officer, make sure funds are used appropriately and sign off on all spending.
The same goes for Marietta City Schools.
“This office submits a budget to the Georgia Department of Education Title I office, which must be approved before we are allowed to spend any funds,” Griffin said.
To date, there have not been any Title I budget cuts, but with the federal sequester, there would be a projected 8 percent cut for the 2014 school year, or about $500,000 in Marietta City and about $1.7 million in Cobb Schools.
Where did it all begin?
A Title I school, which is part of a federal program that addresses the “Academic Achievement of the Disadvantaged,” was established in 1965 under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty.”
The federally funded program was created by the U.S. Department of Education to distribute funding to schools and school districts, which are at or above the 35 percent poverty level, according to said Dr. Adria Griffin, Marietta City’s director of state and federal programs.
Cobb has 30 elementary schools, 11 middle schools, two high schools and Devereux Ackerman Academy, encompassing about 35,203 students, that are classified as Title I schools.
In Marietta, seven elementary schools, Marietta Sixth Grade Academy and Marietta High School, which include about 6,972 students, are all Title I schools.