School districts in Texas have the individual authority to determine the threshold for schools to fall into the Title I category. However, the percentage of economically disadvantaged students must be at least 40 percent for the district to receive funding.
“If we wanted to up that number to 50 or 60 [percent], we could have fewer Title I schools, which would mean we could get more funding to the schools that were in the mix,” said Curtis Null, CISD deputy superintendent of schools. “We feel like we’re at a good balance with the number of Title I schools that we have and the amount of funding that comes from the Title I program. We feel like we’re able to provide the right amount of money to help the students at those campuses with the number of schools that we have now.”
School districts are also able to determine what grade levels may qualify for Title I funding. In CISD, junior high and high schools are not eligible for Title I status. According to Null, 25 percent of students at Oak Ridge High School are economically disadvantaged, and there are secondary schools that fall into the Title I category.
“We made the decision for our secondary schools,” Null said. “It’s better for us to supplement their money through other means than it is to use Title funds to supplement them.”
Economically disadvantaged students who attend a Title I school qualify for free or reduced-cost lunch, and their campus will receive additional resources from Title I federal funding to accommodate the program, CISD Director of Federal Programs Pamela Zoda said.
Title I federal funding can also be allotted for instructional coaches, paraprofessionals who assist teachers in the classroom, technology and supplies, Zoda said. How the funding is distributed is at the campus administration’s discretion.
“One thing the district is required to do is show that we are meeting the needs of all campuses that have high economically disadvantaged [percentages],” she said. “Let’s say Oak Ridge [High School] did qualify. We would have to prove to [the Texas Education Agency] and to ourselves, of course, that we’re meeting the needs of that campus with other funds like state funds, high school allotments and specialized secondary funds that we receive.”
Zoda said CISD is committed to academic salvation early on in students careers, As a result, the district has made Title I a priority in elementary and intermediate schools in the district.
“I think that’s a great place to start with Title I because it’s so academically based and parent involvement-based, which really lends itself to starting at elementary and intermediate [levels] because you’re required as a Title I school to involve parents and to do things that … help kids get better at math and reading and science and social studies,” she said.
Null said determining the appropriate economically disadvantaged percentage and grade levels that are eligible to receive Title I funding at a district level ensures the money is being used wisely.
“Anytime that we can give students an opportunity to be successful, that’s the goal of the program,” Null said. “They might not have access to resources at home based on their status, but if we can have those resources available to them at school, then they have a chance to be successful and make choices in their life that they want to make.”