The NYT Misses Badly on Education Funding Story (Media Coverage)

One of this week's most-noted education articles comes from the Monday New York Times and is headlined -- laboriously and, in my opinion at least, misleadlingly -- as follows: Federal Spending Increases, but More Schools Will Get Less Money for Low-Income Students.

Yeesh, that's hard work already, and we haven't even gotten past the headline. Indeed, many people won't bother going any further. Many will see "more schools" getting "less money" and assume the worst.

Even if they bother to read the article, what they'll find is not much help. The article is misleading. It lacks any real context or balance. It confirms misconceptions about NCLB funding. It highlights the outliers rather than the meat of what the data show. And it's all but single-source journalism.

In essence, the piece is a defense of the needs of low-poverty districtst (with 5 percent or less poor kids) over all others, while it fails to explain the context for the changes that are being made or their rationale. These are unfortunate and serious lapses.

Yes, large numbers of mostly small, low-poverty districts are getting less than they did in the past. Yes, the number of these low-poverty districts affected may be larger this year than last. Sure, they don't like it much. Good folks of Conejo Valley, I feel for your loss.

But the flip side of the coin largely not presented here is that most high-poverty districts are getting much more, and that's an admirable or at least defensible strategy -- and a highly negotiated change made by the Congress after several failed attempts at changing the formula in the past, some of which I participated in.

What's going on in Title I funding is not accidental, and not a function of decreasing Title I funding. It's called targeting -- an effort to concentrate limited federal funds where they are most needed rather than spreading them thinly to nearly every district in the nation, and to have poverty funds follow actually follow poor children rather than being held hostage by districts whose poverty rates or numbers are decreasing in comparison to other places.

The real news -- all but buried -- is that 41 of 50 states are getting Title I increases. LAUSD is getting $53 million more next year than this year. Philadelphia is getting $29 million more. Chicago is getting $22 million more.

However, these findings are all but ignored here in favor of the laments of lots of low-poverty districts and the conclusions of the Center on Education Policy report, taken pretty much at face value.
Quoting Tom Fagan (the report author) and Jack Jennings (the report publisher) in the same story doesn't really count as including two different perspectives, much as I admire those guys and the Center's work. A cursory quote from the USDE is really all that's there. It doesn't seem like the Times bothered to talk to anyone on the Hill, or anyone in a high-poverty district.

Federal Spending Increases, but More Schools Will Get Less Money for Low-Income Students New York Times

Title I Funds: Who's Gaining and Who's Losing Center on Education Policy


Blogger Jenny D. said...

Nice work making sense of this. Incredibly bad reporting and writing.

12:26 PM  

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