Passed in 1965 as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty,” Title I, Aid to Disadvantaged Children, receives the bulk of the $13 billion spent by the federal government to aid K-12 education.
A new report from the U.S. Department of Education concludes the Title I program has encouraged higher state standards and helped close some of the learning gap between rich and poor children, but critics argue that most ESEA programs have failed to accomplish their goals.
“Study after study shows that Title I has not narrowed the rich-poor achievement gap, that the ‘safe and drug-free schools’ program has made U.S. schools neither safe nor drug-free,” says Chester E. Finn Jr., assistant secretary of education under President Ronald Reagan and now president of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation. Worse, the programs are mired in red tape that often slows efforts at real reform.
“Almost half the staff of Florida’s education department, for example, is engaged in making sure that state schools spend federal funds only on federally approved projects rather than on what a principal or school board judges most vital,” reports Finn.