By Paul Takahashi, Las Vegas Sun and U.S. News Agency / Asian
The Clark County School District might be able to temporarily rehire about half of the 419 teachers it laid off last month after the School Board approved on Thursday the use of federal funding to serve the district’s most disadvantaged students.
The School District will receive nearly $82 million next school year through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of Title I, which grants federal dollars to public and private schools with high numbers of students from low-income families.
Each of these “Title I” schools will receive an additional $100 to $375 on top of the district’s per-pupil funding. The goal of the program is to lower the achievement gap between rich and poor students.
Nearly half — or $43 million — of this federal money will fund 199 additional teachers for one year at “Title I” schools. District officials maintained this federal money could not be used to restore lost teacher positions throughout the district, but only to fill “high-need” positions for one year at the 224 schools receiving “Title I” funding.
More than 1,000 teaching positions — including 419 current teachers — were eliminated from the district last month to help plug a $64 million budget deficit next fiscal year.
“Federal funds are tightly earmarked,” the district’s chief student services officer Kimberly Wooden said in a statement. “We wish this were the cure to our financial problems, but it’s more of a Band-Aid for our highest-need schools.”
The rest of the “Title I” funding will go toward charter schools, supplemental educational programs, consultants, educational supplies, professional development, highly qualified teachers and parent involvement.
To qualify for “Title I” funding, schools must have at least 40 percent of its population participating in the federal Free and Reduced-price Lunch program.
School Board members voted on Thursday to lower the 40 percent FRL threshold next school year to allow 139 more schools to become eligible for “Title 1” funding and hire back teachers. In previous years, schools were required to have a 75 percent FRL student population to qualify for “Title I” funds.
As a result, a record 224 schools — or about 63 percent of the district’s 357 schools — will be classified as “Title I” schools next school year. This is up from 91 “Title I” schools classified last year.
This doesn’t necessarily mean there are more impoverished students in the School District, Wooden said. To receive more federal dollars, these schools are now being classified as “Title I” schools, she said.
“We know the biggest impact we can provide is additional personnel in order to help increase student achievement,” said Dr. Susan Steaffens, the district’s director of “Title I” services. “This is about our forward-thinking leadership allowing us to use the funds smarter and get them right into the schools where the need is the greatest.”
However, district officials were reluctant to say which teachers would be hired for the 199 new positions funded by “Title I” money next year.
Some of those positions may ultimately be filled by some of the 419 teachers who were laid off last month, but there’s no guarantee, said district spokeswoman Amanda Fulkerson.
Despite this caveat, the teachers union said it was encouraged by the School Board’s decision to use federal “Title I” money to hire teachers.
The union’s hope is that all 199 positions would be filled from the pool of 419 laid-off teachers — instead of with new teachers or Teach For America corps members, said Ruben Murillo, president of the Clark County Education Association.
“Any additional money to put teachers to work is welcome,” Murillo said. “Our goal is to bring back our teachers.”