Cranbury and Fox Run Elementary schools have lost significant federal funding this year. They did not meet the cutoff to receive Title 1 funding, annual federal grants awarded to school districts with a high percentage of disadvantaged students. This means each school will receive approximately $50,000 less for teachers' aides, professional development and technology. It could result in a slowing of academic progress.
At Fox Run, Principal James Martinez used his funds last year to get most of his teachers trained in Readers Workshop, a new literacy program. He also used some of the funds for SMART Boards to enhance technology in the classrooms. In addition, he was able to hire aides who specifically worked with struggling students. "I put a lot of emphasis on professional development," says Martinez.
Cranbury Principal Robin Ives also used most of her money last year on staffing, specifically teachers' aides. Ives has been in a position before where she lost Title I funding. "I've learned to not count on it. I have to plan with what I know I'm getting," she says.
Since the grant focuses on elementary education, Title 1 schools get full-time literacy specialists. This year, without Title 1, Cranbury and Fox Run have to share a literacy specialist.
Ives and Martinez are concerned because their schools have been making academic strides, especially in the last year. Cranbury got off the No Child Left Behind "Needs Improvement" list. Fox Run was recognized by the Lone Pine Foundation last week for its academic gains. "The primary concern in losing funding is being able to sustain our progress without these resources," says Martinez.
Ives echoes Martinez's sentiments. "You hope you can continue the same level of progress, but it's not always the reality," she said.
According to the district's grants specialist, Italia Negroni, "The purpose of Title 1 is to give the neediest students extra resources." Schools are eligible if they exceed the average percent of free and reduced lunch students across the district as determined by Oct. 1 enrollment data. Last year, Norwalk had 37 percent free and reduced lunch students. "It's frustrating," says Ives. "You can miss out on the funds because you are one student below the cutoff," says Ives. This year, Brookside, Jefferson, Kendall, Marvin, Silvermine, Tracey and Wolfpit elementary schools receive Title I monies. The allotment varies from school to school.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.