Federal cuts affect the poorest Kansas schools

Kansas school districts face the loss of about $7.2 million in federal funding this coming school year for its high-poverty schools, according to the state Department of Education.

In a letter notifying school districts of the cuts, the department described the losses in Title I funding as “major.” The department said 5 percent was cut because of the required federal budget cuts and 0.2 percent because of a smaller total allocation from Congress.

Title I funding pays for teaching staff and services at high-poverty schools, including extra math and reading teachers who help children who are struggling academically. The money also funds after-school programs.

The federal government distributes Congress’ Title I allocation based on the poverty levels of districts’ student bodies, and the poverty figures for Kansas hadn’t grown as much as in most other states, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported.

Tammy Austin, executive director of administration for Topeka Unified School District 501, said cuts in Title I for her district were equivalent to 13 teachers’ salaries and benefits.

“It’s devastating,” Austin said. “What’s difficult is you’re expecting something and then it’s not there, and something’s got to give.”

Austin said the district had been planning for a potential loss of 8 percent of its Title I money but is now losing 9.25 percent. The district had expected to absorb cuts through staff attrition and hopes that will be possible.

The state education department is facing its own cuts in Title I funds and estimates it is losing about $100,000 for administration related to Title I programs. The department also said the cuts will mean $1.4 million less in funding used to help schools that have either low scores on state math and reading tests or wide achievement gaps in their student body.