By Jenny Neyman
As people consider what they’ll do with their windfall Alaska Permanent Fund dividend and resource rebate wealth this fall, the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is keeping an eye on what might happen if the checks make some people too wealthy to qualify for Title I funding.
Title I funding for school districts comes from the federal government to help pay for aides and other instructional support programs targeting poverty populations.
According to Steve Atwater, assistant superintendent of instruction with KPBSD, whether a school receives Title I money depends on its percentage of students from low-income families. If it’s 35 percent or more, a school gets Title I funding proportionate to the school’s enrollment. If it’s less than 35 percent, the school doesn’t receive any Title I money.
Resource rebate checks of $1,200 added to what’s likely to be a $2,000-plus dividend this year could raise a family’s income out of the Title I eligibility bracket. A family of four could stand to get $12,800 this fall.
If enough families are bumped out of Title I eligibility, it could result in a significant loss in funding to a school. Mountain View Elementary School in Kenai, for example, gets $118,000 in Title I funding, Atwater said.
Title I money is already set for fiscal year 2009, which covers the upcoming school year.
But funding could change for next year. Eligibility is based on free and reduced-price lunch applications, which are collected in fall and formalized in December.
“That’s when we might be able to say if there will be any pending change,” Atwater said. “There is certainly no ripple effect this year — the money has been secured already — but it’s possible a year from now there could be a reduced level of funding for our Title I schools.”
But Atwater sees a bright side. Even if Title I numbers decrease, the school district hopes the money will help overall enrollment numbers stay steady.
“As people begin to look around and wonder how they are going to pay their bills, potentially this could keep kids here,” he said. “We’re holding our breath with the enrollment. We don’t know who’s coming and who’s going.”
The school district receives state funding on a per-student basis, so declining enrollment has financial ramifications — to the tune of $5,480 per student.
“We’re optimistic that if there’s a little bit of cash coming to families it will be positive,” Atwater said. “Maybe they can stay here this winter. We hope people won’t trickle away quite as fast, because it seems like a general trend toward that. We’re optimistic the rebate and money will help people stay.”