CAP’s Title I Myth

Posted on February 4, 2010

I just read a copy of “Spoonful of Sugar” from Center for American Progress in which they again propose fixes to Title I funding, which I have pointed out in the past are based on misguided assumptions and analyses (or lack thereof).

Please see my previous analysis here:

The authors of this “spoonful” note:

Still other districts would see their allocations drop because the proposed formula
removes the current bias toward high-spending states that exert relatively low fiscal
effort in education funding.

(page 2)

The inclusion of an effort factor in this particular version of the CAP analysis appears to improve their proposal somewhat (perhaps… maybe?). But the proposal – or spoonful – still fails to address the poverty measurement problem which is substantial.  For example, the spoonful recommends much larger increases for Mississippi, Arkansas and Alabama than for New York, California or New Jersey (Figure 1). But, this figure shows that after correcting for poverty measurement and regional costs, the latter three states are much less well funded under Title I presently than the former three states.

My post above explains clearly and with data and with links to prior presentations and Census bureau analyses on this topic that this assumption by CAP that Title I funding favors rich states is simply wrong and based on bad analyses (rooted in mis-measurement of poverty differences across states).   Yes, it is illogical to drive money to states simply on their ability to spend more on their own. That portion of the current Title I formula is problematic (okay… just plain silly) on its face. But, the resulting distribution pattern is far less problematic and – once again – does not, on average favor Rich States over Poor States.

Apparently, I need to reinforce this point even more (from previous post):

Let me clarify that the same issue of mis-measurement of poverty plagues urban-rural comparisons within states. Rural poverty is, in relative terms, overstated compared to urban poverty. So too are rural costs (competitive wages) lower than urban costs. So, just as it is true that Title I does not necessarily overfund “rich” states, Title I also does not necessarily overfund urban districts at the expense of rural ones. Unfortunately, I do not yet have available a finer grained adjusted poverty measure which will allow me to easily display the urban/rural issue.

CAP’s spoonful brief is backed by their analyses here:

These analyses include faulty assumptions about rural-urban poverty distribution in an ill-conceived example applied to Missouri – a state on which I have conducted extensive research on school funding in the past.