Do you have unused Title I funds sitting there at the end of the school year?
You’re not alone.
An estimated $15.8 billion goes out to schools and districts across the country as part of the Title I program. And according to “Study of Title I Schoolwide and Targeted Assistance Programs,” report by the U.S. Department of Education, many of the schools taking advantage of the U.S. Department of Education’s funds don’t really understand everything they can do with the money.
So the question becomes: What are some creative ways to take all that untapped capital and invest it in the future of student learning?
According to Education Week, Title I grants for impoverished, disadvantaged students “make up the largest portion of all federal money for K-12 education.”
As we mentioned in an earlier blog post on the basics of Title I funding, there’s no one-size-fits-all way for schools to use their federal funding for education programs. Many schools use their Title I funds to invest in staff, whether it’s teachers, administrative staff, English language learners specialists, instructional coaches, or even parent-community liaisons.
But many schools don’t take as much advantage of their Title I funds as much as they could. Why? Most likely out of confusion and trepidation.
As Education Week reported:
In interviews with principals of Title I schools, some didn’t understand that consolidation was allowed; some thought other federal or state rules barred it; and many were afraid of simply doing it wrong. [American Institutes for Research researcher Steven] Hurlburt highlighted one principal who reported, “Everybody was just scared of having a bad audit finding and it turned into a big compliance exercise instead of an exercise of saying, how can we optimally use these funds to meet the unique needs of students?”
Consolidation is Key
Don’t think of your leftover Title I funds as spare change you can just toss in a jar. Every single unused dollar at the end of each fiscal year can be put to use helping students and staff overcome the achievement gap separating low-income schools from their higher-income peers.
Over at Edmentum, writer Sarah Cornelius offers several helpful tips for how schools can use their leftover Title I funds. While you should always make spending decisions based on the needs of your particular school or district, these tips offer a guideline for ways to brainstorm about using your Title I funds.
Pooling remaining Title I funds with additional federal funding for education programs to focus on a large project or initiative.
Expanding intervention programs, as encouraged by ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act).
Enhancing after-school and summer programs for students who struggle in traditional classroom settings.
The extensive U.S. Department of Education report mentioned above highlights some of the many ways Title I eligible schools are getting flexible and creative with their funds. And it turns out that consolidating funds is key.
Consolidation, in fact, isn’t just suggested—it’s encouraged.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, by “making systemic changes that knit together services funded from a variety of sources into a comprehensive framework, schools have a better chance of increasing the academic achievement of all students.”
From Clubs to Counselors: Creative Ways to Spend Title I Money
The best place to get creative about using your Title I funds in ways you never thought: examine what other schools and school districts are doing.
The U.S. Department of Education report is packed with case studies that show how innovative uses of Title I funds (whether consolidated with other funding sources or not) can impact both the lives of students and the success of school districts.
STEM Clubs: Ocelot Elementary uses Title I funds to operate an afterschool STEM club which all students can join. This club, a privilege that starts with an hour of study hall, has extended the school day by several hours per week.
Summer Camps: Incoming sixth graders identified as “likely to struggle” at Charles Middle School can participate in a two-week summer camp that gets them acclimated to the building, the teachers, and the curriculum.
School Counselors: Several schools, including Castle Elementary, Poplar Elementary, and Waxberry Middle Schools, used their Title I funds to hire a guidance counselor to offer non-academic emotional and social support to students.
Title I for Tech
While many Title I funds often go toward reading and mathematics, another way to use them is to boost student access to technology—which can often times end up boosting success rates in reading and mathematics.
Schools in Fayette County, Georgia use Title I funds to give students access to school-loaned devices. This helps students in a Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) school district to have the same learning opportunities as their peers.
Working closely with Title I parent liaisons, the district’s Title I coordinator identified those families who needed school-loaned equipment and provided them with affordable broadband Internet access using the Kajeet SmartSpot®.
Not all school districts have the same financial needs, let alone the individual schools within those districts. When it comes to any leftover Title I funds, remember there’s a lot more latitude for how you use those precious dollars than you might realize.
And don’t forget to think a little outside the box.