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November 6, 2012

Federal funding an extra help for Norman schools

NORMAN — Norman Board of Education members spent an hour reviewing the district’s federal funds under Title I, II and III at a meeting Monday, taking an in-depth look at the numbers and the processes by which districts and schools may qualify.

Title I funding is for improving academic achievement of the economically disadvantaged student population, a figure whose funding relies on the numbers of students qualifying for free and reduced lunches. For Fiscal Year 2013, Norman will receive almost $2.2 million in Title I funds.

Title I is the largest sum of federal funds, and is allocated each year to each school in the district based on federal formulas determining need. However, the district is allowed some use of the funds prior to allocation called “set-asides.”

According to Director of Federal Programs Rex Wall, more than half of Norman’s Title I “set-asides” will be spent on instructional coaches — district personnel stationed at various school sites to create curriculum-centric activities and teacher training to maximize learning in “disadvantaged” subgroups.

“Especially now, as we look to Common Core soon, this is a very necessary expense for the district, to ensure teachers are up to speed on instructional techniques,” Wall said.

Title II funds, for teacher and principal quality, total $374,000. Title III funds, for immigrant and English language learner students, total about $84,940 for the two subcategories.

“There’s some cross-over of students among these different service-oriented programs, and I think the most successful application of these funds is to avoid looking at the subgroups as isolated and rather see the funds as an umbrella which serves students with a range of needs,” Superintendent Joe Siano said.

Wall agreed, saying districts should not rely too heavily on federal funding but rather see it as an allowance, giving district budgets a little more slack.

“These funds come to us to supplement the entire expenditure required,” Wall said. “I think that’s the best way to look at it — not as a district expecting the Feds to come in and pay for the programs out right, but rather the Feds help shoulder the cost.”

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