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Jan 27, 2023 MOST Staff

Impacts of Title One Funding in Tennessee: What Donors Need to Know

JC Bowman, Executive Director & CEO of Professional Educators of Tennessee, recently shared some of his concerns with the MOST team regarding Title One, why teachers are leaving and not entering the field, and how withdrawing funding will impact everyone. 

What is Title One?

Title One is a provision from the Department of Education that allows for both state education agencies (SEAs) and local education agencies (LEAs) to receive financial assistance, particularly schools serving high percentages of low-income families. This is achieved through four statutory formula grants:

  1. Basic
  2. Concentrated
  3. Targeted
  4. Education Finance Incentive Grants (EFIG)

These grants vary in how they are distributed based on factors including but not limited to per capita income of a location, the cost of education in a specific school, and federal census of poverty.

For schools to be eligible, students from low-income families need to make up at least 40 percent of enrollment. These Title 1 funds are used to operate schoolwide programs that serve all enrolled children in order to raise the achievement level of the lowest-achieving students.

MOST is not a political organization but is focused on helping meet the educational needs of children in the Mid-South. We want families, schools, and the donors who support MOST to be aware of issues that have community-wide implications.

Title 1 Reductions in Tennessee

Title 1 program funds have been significantly reduced in Tennessee. JC Bowman, a former high school social science and special education teacher in Tennessee public school systems, currently serves as the Executive Director & CEO of Professional Educators of Tennessee. He thinks there is cause for alarm. 

“These reductions are going to impact kids. We're going to see services that children depend on shrink or vanish,” said Bowman, citing the loss of $80,000 in one Tennessee county, which will have ramifications for as many as 10,000 students. “That's the equivalent of two teachers leaving due to lack of funding.” 

Other unneeded changes could include a reduction in tutoring, smaller class sizes, and fewer extracurricular or afterschool programs. This should be especially concerning for those living in and around Memphis, which ranks #1 for the number of people with no education and is ranked #468 out of 511 cities nationally for educational attainment.

“There is no doubt these changes are going to impact low income families at  low income schools,” said Bowman.” At the end of the day, it's obviously going to have an impact on kids who are most in need of extra academic support.”

Where are the New Teachers?

Donors and parents should be very concerned about the lack of college graduates going into the teaching field. Lack of funding is one of the biggest issues facing schools and this reality discourages graduating college students to even consider teaching as a possibility. How do schools fill the void? By making a hire to fill a position rather than hiring teachers to teach.

“Schools are forced to hire people who are hastily hired to teach but do not have the necessary training,” said Bowman. “And the longer you teach, the better you become, so we’re also getting people who have not had the experience.”

As the professional pipeline slows to a trickle, parents’ frustration is spilling over, giving them fewer options and less desirable outcomes. The pressure could be even worse for veteran teachers who have committed to staying in the field in spite of the mounting challenges. Studies show they are taking on more and more responsibility while their income stagnates at a level that isn’t sustainable.  

“You can't even live in the community in which you teach because you can't afford it,” said Bowman. “You're driving 30, 40, 50 miles because you can't live well in a mid-sized city for $45,000 a year.…This is a critical point.”

The simple fact is that teachers cannot support themselves on their salaries. Not only are teachers not going into the field, but many are leaving after teaching for only handful  of years. 

“You almost have to view education now as if teachers are part of the Peace Corps,” said Bowman.” They're coming in and teaching for three, four, five years and then moving on.”

Schools, private or public, require a constant stream of funding, whether from the federal government or otherwise, and students and families are at a disadvantage when we rely solely on one stream of funding. At MOST, we help parents meet the needs of their children by allowing them opportunities to get their kids in the schools best equipped to meet their needs. 

Published by MOST Staff January 27, 2023