Title I, Part A (Title I) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) is the largest source of federal funding for K–12 schools, receiving $18.4 billion in the fiscal year 2023 federal budget. It aims to supplement state and local education funding in school districts with high concentrations of children from low-income families—recognizing that children living in poverty have greater educational needs, but that the districts serving them often lack the resources to fully meet those needs. However, while Title I is intended to support schools and districts with concentrations of poverty, Congress has struggled since its enactment in 1965 to balance this intention with the political need to spread funding more broadly and, thereby, maximize public support.
Evidence shows that school funding matters for student outcomes, yet there is also evidence of significant disparities in the distribution of funding and other resources across school districts. High-poverty schools often receive less total funding (combined from federal, state, and local sources) than more affluent schools. Without more equitable distribution of resources, including Title I dollars, students from low-income families will continue to face the same systemic disadvantages they did nearly 60 years ago when Title I was enacted.
What is Title I?
Need a refresher on all things Title I? Check out All4Ed’s explainer on the Title I program and why it matters for students and families.
¿Qué es el Título I?
¿Necesita un repaso de todo relacionado con el Título I? Consulte el explicador de All4Ed sobre el programa de Título I y por qué es importante para los estudiantes y las familias.
Given the importance of resources toward achieving better outcomes for historically underserved students, this series of reports explores how well Title I targets funds to school districts and schools with the highest concentrations of poverty.
- In How the Formulas Work, Nora Gordon and Sarah Reber explain how the four Title I formulas—Basic Grants, Concentration Grants, Targeted Grants, and Education Finance Incentive Grants (EFIG)—distribute funds and how certain factors within the formulas result in districts receiving different levels of Title I funding per formula child (essentially, per child living in poverty).
- Gordon and Reber also explain why the EFIG formula, despite its name, is unlikely to prompt states to change how much they fund K–12 schools or how they distribute state funding to higher- versus lower-poverty schools.
- In Targeting Funds to High-Poverty Schools and Districts, Rebeca Shackleford considers whether Title I funding is adequately and consistently targeted to districts and schools with the highest concentrations of formula children.
- In How the Formulas Benefit Different Types of Districts, Gordon and Reber simulate what would happen if $10 billion in new Title I funding was allocated solely through any one of the current formulas, instead of spread across all four consistent with current appropriations. By disentangling the formulas, they show how the choice of distribution formula matters and reveal which of the formulas is most effective at targeting funds to districts that share certain characteristics.
- In Policy Considerations and Recommendations, All4Ed synthesizes the findings across the series to offer potential policy solutions to improve how Title I funds are distributed and help the program fulfill its purpose to support students living in concentrations of poverty.
Find out more by exploring each of the publications below.
Reports In This Series
Title I’s Education Finance Incentive Grant Program Is Unlikely to Increase Effort and Equity in State Policy
Nora Gordon is Professor at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy and Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research. Her research evaluates how federal and state policies and programs affect K-12 educational opportunities and outcomes. Nora has served on the Institute of Education Sciences Expert Panel on the Study of the Title I Formula and DC’s state Title I Committee of Practitioners. She currently serves on the Professional Advisory Board of the National Center for Learning Disabilities, on the FutureEd Advisory Board, and as an academic advisor to the DC Policy Center’s Education Policy Group. Nora and Carrie Conaway are the authors of Common-Sense Evidence: The Education Leader’s Guide to Using Data and Research.
Sarah Reber is the Joseph A. Pechman Senior Fellow in Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution. Her research focuses on college access, elementary and secondary education finance policy, and school desegregation. She is also a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) and a California Policy Lab (CPL) affiliated expert. Previously, she was Associate Professor of Public Policy at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Scholar in Health Policy Research at UC Berkeley, and a Research Assistant and Staff Economist on the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA).
This report series would not have been possible without the hard work, collaboration, and important contributions of many on the All4Ed team, especially Anne Hyslop who served as editor to this series. We would like to thank Wayne Riddle, whose data research was integral to Title I of ESEA: Targeting Funds to High-Poverty Schools and Districts. We would also like to recognize and thank the following reviewers: Michael Dannenberg, Michael DiNapoli, Lindsay Fryer, Roxanne Garza, Michael Griffith, Bethany Little, Morgan Polk, and Chris Topoleski. We also thank Keisha Rivera and Chad Spader for their design work and Ziyu Zhou for her data visualizations. In addition, All4Ed thanks the W.K. Kellogg Foundation for its generous support of this work.