5 Beaufort County schools to lose federal money for low-income students

tbarton@beaufortgazette.comMay 26, 2013 

Five Beaufort County schools will lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal aid to low-income students next school year, money that has paid for part-time staff, tutoring and before- and after-school programs.

Beaufort and Bluffton middle schools, as well Hilton Head Island Early Childhood Center, Hilton Head Island Elementary School and Hilton Head Island Elementary School for the Creative Arts, will lose a combined $703,900 because of federal budget cuts and expired federal stimulus funds, according to the school district.

The schools losing money were added last year to the district's list of Title 1 schools -- those with a high percentage of students from low-income households. As such, the schools were eligible for federal money to help improve academic achievement.

Historically, the district has used the federal money for schools with 60 percent or more of their students from low-income families, said Terry Bennett, district director of grants management. The district lowered the threshold to 50 percent when the government provided extra Title 1 money last year, enabling the money to be shared with more schools.

Now that the stimulus money has run out, there are fewer dollars to distribute.

"The pie got larger with stimulus funds, meaning we could give out more slices," Bennett said. "But those funds have since expired, and the pie is about to get smaller."

The district expects to lose another $437,000 for Title 1 schools next school year because of federal budget cuts -- a drop from the current school year of more than 8 percent.

Taking a hit then will be programs in special education, professional development, English classes for non-native speakers, basic education for children of migrant workers and smaller class sizes for schools with a high population of at-risk students, Bennett said.

"The most disadvantaged kids are getting hit over and over again with these cuts to federal programs for those who are poor, at-risk and non-native speakers," he said.

The cuts come as the number of students from low-income households in the district rose from about 50 percent in 2009 to 57 percent this school year.

For Bluffton Middle School principal Pat Freda, the cuts mean shifting money to continue after-school tutoring. Freda used Title 1 funds this school year to pay teachers, provide transportation and purchase instructional materials and supplies to tutor students twice a week. The school will probably have to cut tutoring to once a week and offer it for only part of the year, she said.

Title 1 money also was used to purchase iPads to increase student engagement and access to technology in grades six to nine.

A program that helps students whose reading ability is two or more years below grade level will now be supported by the district, not Title 1 money, Freda said.

Hilton Head Island Early Childhood Center principal Kim Bratt said that without the federal money, she won't be able to afford a part-time employee hired this school year to help students struggling in math and reading. A before-school program for students struggling in math, science and reading also is in jeopardy, Bratt said.

"We'll try to make adjustments as best we can where necessary, so student achievement, support and intervention are not interrupted," she said.

The schools were warned the Title 1 money would be short-lived, so much of it was spent on instructional materials teachers can still use.

"Because they were told to not put full-time people into their plans, they are back to their normal funding, just like in the 2011-12 school year," Bennett said.

Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/IPBG_Tom.

Related content:

Bases, airports, schools brace for sequestration: Feb. 26, 2013

For some, school choice fails to satisfy: Oct. 16, 2006

The Island Packet is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service