Making Title I Portable

Published October 1, 1999

Earlier this year, at a conference hosted by the Manhattan Institute and the Progressive Policy Institute, Diane Ravitch, a senior fellow with both, laid out her proposal for making Title I into a “portable entitlement.”

Instead of funds going directly to school districts, as they do now, Ravitch proposed having Title I funds follow eligible poor children. This would not be a voucher, she explained, but like a Pell Grant, which would allow Title I funds to be used at whatever school the student chose to attend.

Title I, formerly known as “Chapter I,” is the federal government’s largest education program for poor and disadvantaged children in grades K-12. The program served 11 million children with funding of $8.36 billion for fiscal 1999. The program’s aim is to bring the academic achievement level of low-income students closer to that of their peers by giving additional funds to poor school districts across the nation.

Despite spending more than $120 billion since its inception in 1965, the program is a documented failure. According to interim and final 1993 reports to Congress, disadvantaged children in Title I programs did no better academically than disadvantaged children not in Title I.