07/14/04 — Schools defend funding for Goldsboro High

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Schools defend funding for Goldsboro High

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on July 14, 2004 2:00 PM

Members of the NAACP and Concerned Clergy are alleging that Goldsboro High School has not received federal money it is entitled to for the past two years.

Charles Wright, the parent of a Goldsboro High student, said the school is entitled to the money and suggested the move has resulted in a decline in programs and instruction at the school. He said he has been researching the federal No Child Left Behind law and its relationship to Title I schools, particularly Goldsboro High.

"In the last two or three years, Goldsboro High School has not had Title I funds," he said. Title 1 funds go to schools that have a high percentage of students on free or reduced lunch.

Education officials respond that the school has historically not relied on the money and that it has only been in the last year that the federal money was declined. They also said that Goldsboro High has not been slighted.

The decision was made legitimately and legally, says Juanita King, who recently retired as director of federal programs for the school system. Her successor, Dr. Willette Wooten, said the school system has treated all its schools fairly and that no services have been sacrificed at the high school.

Dr. Wooten said guidelines for the federal No Child Left Behind law are spelled out clearly, based on the percentage of low-income students receiving free or reduced lunch.

"If a school has 75 percent or greater" on free or reduced lunch, "we're mandated to serve those schools," she said.

She said that when Goldsboro High School received federal money, it was because the percentage was at that level. As of December, 2003, however, the numbers dropped to about 61 percent, she said.

Citing national statistics, Dr. Wooten said high schools typically do not receive the bulk of the funds available.

She said about 12 percent of the money goes to kindergarten and preschools, 64 to those in grades 1-6, 16 percent to 7th through 9th grades, and 7 percent to high schools.

In Wayne County, the decision was made that the concentration of Title I funds be distributed in kindergarten through eighth grades.

Mrs. King said she convened a special Title I advisory committee, consisting of principals, teachers and parents from across the county.

"It was felt that targeting the money to the lower grades would be the best use of funds," she said. "Some school systems don't even go as high as the middle school level."

She said the funds are supplemental, in addition to other sources. Goldsboro High School was already receiving quite a bit of school improvement money, so the decision was made that federal money would not be necessary.

"If they were to use federal money instead of giving the school their local and state funding they're entitled to, that's called supplanting and that's illegal," she said. "The school system could end up paying back all that federal money."

But the Rev. Dr. William Barber of Concerned Clergy said that by not receiving federal dollars the school system "prevents federal investigation and empowerment of civil rights laws pertaining to the school.

"The only eligible schools that did not receive Title I money in the past two school years are Goldsboro High School and the alternative schools. Something is very wrong with this picture."

In defending the funding, Mrs. King said the school system has been very fair in the way the Title I funds have been distributed in the schools.

Pat Burden recalls Goldsboro High entering the Title I program in 1999-2000, the year before she became principal.

"It had refused it up until that time," she said. "But then they had 75 percent of students on free or reduced lunch and at that point, you cannot refuse it; the district had to provide it."

She said the school was put in a position that it had to accept the federal money. The year after she arrived, though, the school received grants that enhanced some of the programs, she said.

When the numbers dropped and the school system supported lower grades receiving the funds, Ms. Burden said she supported the decision.

"I had become concerned at the amount of remediation we had to do at the ninth grade level," she said. Investing federal money in the elementary and middle grades enhanced the academic performance of those students, she said, which offset the need for her teachers to have to do that once those students arrived at high school.

Dr. Wooten says that it is inaccurate to suggest that Wayne County has turned down money or that instruction at the high school has suffered because of it.

"Title I money is used to hire teachers and teacher assistants, provide staff development, support teacher training, service computer hardware and software, and provide instructional supplies," she said.

"At Goldsboro High School, the level of staffing has remained. We have not lost any teachers or assistants in the absence of Title I funds, and services have remained consistent."