Monday, April 12, 2004

Census undercounts hurts some rural schools

This may be one explanation for the loss of Title I funding for school districts.
    By almost every indicator, the elementary school in this nearly deserted railroad town is poor. Its teachers are the lowest paid in the state, half the children received free winter coats and milk is routinely donated for breakfast.

    So officials were stunned to learn last summer that the school wasn't considered poor enough to qualify for a crucial federal poverty grant. According to census estimates based on the 2000 census, only 1 of the 51 pupils is poor--down from 33 in the 1990 census.

    As a result, the Leepertown Elementary School lost about $30,000, or nearly all, of its Title I funding for this academic year, federal money earmarked for the nation's neediest school districts. It also lost eligibility for other grants tied to Title I, which could total $400,000 to $500,000 during the next decade.

    "The facts just don't add up," said school Supt. Amber Harper as she recently drove through a rundown trailer park where four pupils live, including two siblings in a 1965 trailer with a leaking roof. "We have so many kids here who are so needy."