Libby bill to boost funding to low-income school districts moves forward

Posted: May 03, 2017 | Senator Libby

Bill prevents state from cutting funds to schools that qualify for federal anti-poverty money

The Legislature’s Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs voted 7-3 on Wednesday to endorse a bill by Sen. Nate Libby, D-Lewiston, that would ensure low-income school districts don’t see a decline in state and local funding as a result of receiving special federal dollars designed to support education in poorer communities.

The bill — LD 1319 “An Act To Ensure Federal Title I Funding Is Directed to Classroom Learning” — would make sure federal Title I funds supplement, rather than supplant, local and state education dollars. Majority Democrats on the committee voted to recommend the bill’s passage by the Legislature, while all Republicans present voted to recommend it be killed.

Title I funds from the U.S. Department of Education are intended to provide a boost to students from lower socio-economic backgrounds. But Maine’s Essential Programs and Services funding formula, or EPS, has counted Title I funds against their funding from the State, negating the purpose of the program and advantaging districts which don’t receive Title I funds.

“Current practice — reducing state funding for school districts in areas poor enough to qualify for Title I funds — is simply wrong and unfair,” said Sen. Libby. “The point of this program is to give a little extra help to the students who need it most and this bill will make sure that actually happens.”

This change is required by federal law. According to the U.S. Department of Education, in 2016, Congress passed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) which specified “that schools receiving Title I federal funds must receive all of the State and local funds the school would have otherwise received if it were not receiving the federal resources.”

LD 1319 now heads to the Senate for initial votes.