Kayser Abstention Dooms Effort to Spread Out Title 1 Money*
Vanessa Romo | November 13, 2013
LA Unified School board member Tamar Galatzan had hoped to sway her colleagues to change the way the district distributes Title 1 funds for low-income students. But her motion, co-sponsored by Monica Ratliff, failed to get majority support at yesterday’s board meeting.
The vote was split, 3-3, with Galatzan, Ratliff and Steve Zimmer, all of whom represent districts with mixed income levels, supporting the measure. Monica Garcia, Richard Vladovic, and Marguerite LaMotte, whose schools are located in high poverty communities, voting against.
Bennett Kayser assured defeat when he abstained.
“This is a really tough one,” he said, explaining that his district would suffer no matter which side he took.
Kayser represents schools from Eagle Rock, where the median household income is above $67,000, to Bell where it’s about $37,000.
After federal dollars were reduced by 9 percent in 2011, the district raised the threshold for eligibility for Title 1 funds to schools where 50 percent of students were from low-income families, with schools with 65 to 100 percent low income students getting additional money.
Federal Title 1 money is intended for extra learning resources and services.
The Galatzan-Ratliff proposal would have pushed back the line to 40 percent with three tiers of funding that increase with need: 40 to 50 percent, 50 to 65 percent and 65 to 100 percent.
As a result of the measure’s defeat, 23 schools that were in the 40 percent to 49 percent range lost between $160,000 and $600,000 each. One of them was Rio Vista Elementary School in North Hollywood.
“Last year we missed the magical target number by nine students,” Principal Pia Sadaqatmal told the board. “Next year if we don’t hit the magic number we lose about $80,000 from 2012 money. That’s money we use for school psychologist and nurses,” she said, pleading with the board to approve the lower threshold.
Garcia, whose east LA schools make up the only district where 100 percent of campuses meet the Title 1 criteria, emphatically opposed the measure.
“Maybe we don’t understand poverty,” she said. “Poverty needs to be interrupted. Taking money from the schools that have not yet enjoyed the academic successes that other schools have achieved, is not right.”
Although Zimmer voted to support a return to 40 percent eligibility, he said he struggled with the decision.
He argued that the intent of the law is to address schools in communities with the highest concentration of poverty but “I’ve come to understand that there also exist pockets of concentrated poverty throughout my district.”
Reducing the threshold would allow the district to continue to grow enrollment in middle class areas, where schools are leaving the district, and all the money that goes with them, to become charter schools.
Galatzan piggy-backed on the idea saying, “We are sabotaging those schools because they want to attract kids across the economic spectrum.”
*An earlier version misidentified a school that lost Title 1 money. It is Rio Vista Elementary School in North Hollywood, not Dahlia Heights. Also, a woman quoted was not the mother of a Dahlia Heights student; it was the Rio Vista principal, Pia Sadaqatmal.