The numbers don't lie.
From 2009 to 2010 students who fell below the federal poverty line at Community High School District 218 was at 48 percent. This year it jumped to 53 percent then to 63 percent, said Anne Coffman, director of state and federal programs for the district.
So in an effort to keep its increasingly low-income student population ahead of the curve next year, District 218 is looking to distribute Title 1 funding evenly to all three of its community high schools.
“It's a very complicated...with lots of federal regulations,” Coffman said of the Title 1 program, “but we welcome it. We're fortunate to have the funding.”
At present, Eisenhower, in Blue Island, is the only high school in the district that uses the program based on low-income students. The poverty line in schools is determined by how many students participate in the federal lunch program.
Under the targeted program, about 300 students at Richards and Shepard high schools receive extra attention, such as tutoring during lunch and after school, when students are struggling academically.
Leveling the learning field
On Monday night, the board unanimously updated the proposed Title 1 plan for next year to include the low-income based program. Early next month they'll vote on it.
“It would be more equitable to disburse funding throughout the district,” said Superintendent John Byrne. “The [original] distribution was unequal...it couldn't serve all our schools.”
Although Coffman doesn't have data to link poverty to any decline in D218's quality of education, she said too many low-income students can't benefit from the targeted program.
“The higher the poverty rate,” Coffman said, “the fewer resources families [in the district] have at their disposal to provide academic opportunities. You have to supplement not supplant.”
To be eligible for the program, schools must meet or exceed the 40-percent poverty bar set by the federal government.
Since Shepard, Richards and Eisenhower high schools exceed that level, all three are eligible.
If the plan passes, all three will receive relatively equal shares of an estimated $1.2 million in Title 1 funding next year.
Coffman based the estimate for next year on what D218 received this year.
She also noted that targeting students who are failing or are at risk of failing may still take place under the program based on low-income students.
And once the school starts receiving Title 1 funding on a month-to-month basis, student programming will include anyone interested in getting extra help.
“Now we don't have to pay attention to a formula,” Byrne said of the targeted program which takes multiple academic factors into consideration. “All kids will receive the benefits.”