Potential cuts in funding concern schools

Title IIA federal grants targeted; local officials say they improve education

At least two Washington County school districts have expressed concern about the possibility of losing tens of thousands of dollars in federal grants that they say help improve education in their schools.

The Appropriations Bill passed by the House Sept. 14 followed guidance from the White House in eliminating some education programs and reducing others, and Belpre City Schools Superintendent Tony Dunn was especially concerned about one of those. Title IIA funding is intended to better education for students by improving the quality of teachers and principals and enabling districts to recruit and retain high quality educators.

Dunn wrote U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, on Aug. 29, urging him to work to restore the funding.

Washington County school districts received about $450,000 in Title IIA funding in fiscal year 2016, according to Ohio Department of Education records. Belpre stands to lose about $57,000, Dunn said, if the funding is eliminated entirely. That is the equivalent of one teacher’s salary, he said.

Jona Hall, curriculum and technology director at Marietta City Schools, said the district uses the funds — which amounted to about $143,000 in fiscal year 2016 — to help support co-teacher classrooms, in which a second teacher is available to assist students who experience learning challenges or need some assistance. Hall said the district prefers that model rather than the older method of removing children and taking them to a separate class.

“We don’t do that,” she said. “We put the teacher in the class, and that teacher stays there.”

Hall said loss of all or part of the Title IIA money would mean moving money from the general fund to support continued co-teaching.

“We have to identify different funding sources so that we are meeting the needs of these children and identifying the best practices, but as funding gets removed we kind of get stuck, we can’t address the same needs,” she said.

The district just wants to provide equitable service to students, she said.

“With the poverty level in our area and the support we need to ensure success, when they’re taking these resources away, that’s not serving those students’ needs,” she said.

Dunn’s letter urged Johnson to consider a restoration to cut made to Title II.

“Title II, Part A provides critical funding to states for the purposes of preparing, training, recruiting, and retaining high-quality teachers, principals, assistant principals, and other school leaders,” his letter read. “I am extremely concerned that the House Appropriations Committee voted to eliminate funding for this vital funding source for schools because this will severely disrupt many states’ implementation plans and hamper our efforts to increase student achievement.”

The House Appropriations Bill sent to the Senate is unlikely to be passed there, but a version of the bill that might come out of the conference committee could include the same Title IIA cuts.

In response to an inquiry from the Times, Johnson’s office sent the following comments on the bill and on Title IIA funding:

“In this challenging fiscal environment, with the national debt now exceeding $20 trillion, the House of Representatives chose to invest the limited funds in the classrooms and on the students,” the comment read. “The House reinstated funding aimed at low-income, high-need students, including 21st Century Community Learning Centers, Preschool Grants, and Career and Technical Education state grants. The legislation would also increase funding for programs under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and the Student Support and Academic Achievement State Grants.

There’s still a long way to go before this legislation becomes law. The Senate is currently working on its version of this legislation.”

By the numbers

Title IIA funding levels, Washington County Schools, fiscal year 2016

¯ Belpre City Schools: $58,931.70.

¯ Fort Frye Local Schools: $64,281.29.

¯ Frontier Local Schools: $64,837.02.

¯ Marietta City Schools: $142,919.46.

¯ Warren Local Schools: $90,353.48.

¯ Wolf Creek Local Schools: $28,374.76.

Source: Ohio Department of Education.