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Education Stimulus Distributions to School Districts

March 5, 2009 - 12:51pm

Since the President signed the stimulus bill (also known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) on February 17th, school districts across the country have anxiously awaited the arrival of their Title I and IDEA funds.  The House Education and Labor committee published data on how much money each district is estimated to receive.  But few have taken a closer look at how those dollars relate to poverty and district size.

To get a better sense of how stimulus allocations will be affecting students in school districts across the country, we examined both the total stimulus funding per student and the Title I stimulus funding per poor student.  As we've discussed previously, it's estimated that districts will receive widely varying amounts of stimulus money based on these two measures. Some districts will receive as little as $1 per student or as much as $17,893 per student in total stimulus funds.  At the extremes, the district receiving the most Title I stimulus per poor student will get an estimated $36,889, while the district receiving the least will get $123 per poor student. 

Our Findings

The average district will receive approximately $890 in Title I stimulus dollars per poor student and $401 in total stimulus dollars per student. That's a 4 percent increase over the 2005-06 average per pupil expenditure of $10,615.   

Examining in detail the district stimulus allocations for all 14,000 districts expected to receive funds is a challenge. As a result, we've taken a closer look at the 50 largest districts in the country.  These 50 districts serve more than 7.9 million elementary and secondary students, almost 16 percent of the country's total student population.  

New York City Public Schools, with an enrollment of 990,000 in 2007, is the largest district in the country.  It is expected to receive $1,050 in total stimulus dollars per student and $1,985 in Title I stimulus dollars per poor student. Its Census poverty rate is 35.8 percent while its free and reduced price lunch (FRPL) enrollment is 71.4 percent.

Prince William County Public Schools in Virginia enrolled 70,948 in 2007 and is the smallest district in our list of 50 large districts.  It is expected to receive $1,159 Title I dollars per poor student and $270 total stimulus dollars per student.  According to the Census, 6 percent of its students live in families in poverty, while 28.1 percent of its students are enrolled in FRPL.

According to Census estimates, Detroit City School District has the most students in poverty of the 50 largest districts at 39.4 percent.  Detroit is expected to receive $2,130 in Title I per poor student and $1,914 in total stimulus dollars per student, the most of these 50 districts. Seventy-seven percent of students in Detroit receive free or reduced priced lunches.

Montgomery County, on the other hand, is the least impoverished district by Census count at 5.4 percent. However, it will receive $1,417 in Title I stimulus dollars per poor student, ranking 16th among the 50 largest districts.  It will only receive $311 in total stimulus dollars per student.

Philadelphia City School District is predicted to receive the most Title I stimulus dollars per student at $2,469. It will receive the second most in total stimulus dollars per student at $1,487.  Census data suggests that 31.7 percent of Philadelphia students are living in poverty, while 68.7 percent of students are enrolled in FRPL.

Of the 50 largest school districts, Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District in Texas is expected to receive the least in Title I stimulus dollars per poor student ($929) and total stimulus per student ($240). According to Census data, 11.9 percent of students in Cypress-Fairbanks are living in poverty and 33.9 percent are enrolled in FRPL.

For many of these districts, particularly those with large impoverished populations, stimulus dollars may significantly increase their per pupil expenditures.  How this money will be spent, however, is yet to be seen.  That will be the true test of the stimulus package and its impact on education.

A spreadsheet containing this information for the 50 largest districts can be downloaded here.

A spreadsheet containing this information for every school district in the country can be downloaded here.

How We Did It

To conduct these calculations we merged the Ed and Labor Committee's data on district level stimulus allocations for Title I and IDEA with Census data on children age 5 to 17 living with families in poverty and NCES data on total enrollment and free and reduced price lunch (FRPL) enrollment.  The Census poverty data is used to distribute Title I dollars to states and school districts, while districts use FRPL data to distribute Title I dollars to schools within each district. Because the Department of Education uses Census estimates to distribute Title I dollars, we focus on this poverty measure in our analyses.

However, it is important to note that these two measures paint very different pictures of poverty in a school district. Census data estimates the number of children age 5-17 living in poverty in each district based on reported family income in the American Community Survey. Any family that reports that their income is below the poverty level ($22,050 for a family of 4 in 2009) is considered to be living in poverty.

In contrast, students are entitled to free lunches if their families' incomes are below 130 percent of the annual income poverty level guideline and reduced price lunches if their families' incomes are below 185 percent of poverty. As a result, free and reduced price lunch enrollment identifies many more students as in poverty than the census estimate (which only identifies students at 100 percent of the poverty line).  This is especially true for districts that have many students living just above the poverty line (100-185 percent of poverty).

AttachmentSize
Stimulus Distributionfor 50 Largest Districts.xls32.5 KB
Stimulus Distributions to All School Districts - FEBP, New America Foundation.xls2.64 MB