USDOE to MDE: Tell Us How Title 1 Workaround is Legal
They didn’t say “no,” but in a memo to the Michigan Dept. of Education (MDE) the US Dept. of Education (USED) has asked MDE for clarification on how a recent legislative change in the allocation of kindergarten funding complies with federal law. It is unclear whether Michigan could face penalties or loss of funds if they are found to be in violation of federal law, but some districts now face starting school in the fall uncertain about their state and federal funding.
The FY 2012-13 School Aid budget changes a longstanding practice that allowed schools to draw down a full foundation allowance for a half-day kindergarten student. Because schools are not permitted to use Title 1 funds to supplant state spending, this creates a situation challenge for some districts that have traditionally used Title 1 funding to pay for half of their full-day kindergarten program while still receiving a full foundation for each student. The legislature tried to create a work around which would allow just those schools who have been doing this to continue to receive a full foundation for a half-day program and required MDE to request a ruling from USED on whether the change would create a supplation issue. In response, USED pointed out that Title 1 requirements (20 USC § 7902) prohibit states from taking into consideration payments under an ESEA program when awarding state aid to schools. Now the USED is asking Michigan to provide justification as to how current statute does not violate federal law and is requiring an answer before the state releases its first state aid payments to schools in October. In response, MDE has reported its findings to the legislature and asked for their direction in how to respond to USED given the requirements of the recently changed law.
For secondary principals in those districts, this could translate into a mid-year realignment of funding, a push to create new Title 1 eligible programming, or any of a number of other permutations depending on how the situation is resolved.