School District Poverty Data

School District Poverty Data

  • July 26th, 2019

School District Poverty Data

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1994 directed the Department of Education to consider distributing Title I basic and concentration grants directly to school districts for the 1999-2000 school year. The Department of Education asked the Census Bureau to provide the data at a school district level that would make this possible. The Census Bureau recently completed its work, which was reviewed by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). NAS recommended to the Secretaries of Education and Commerce that the Census Bureau’s 1995 school district estimates of poor school-age children be used to make direct Title I allocations to school districts for the 1999-2000 year. The Secretaries of Education and Commerce have decided to follow the Academy’s recommendation. The $7.6 billion available for Title I, Part A funds will be allocated through each state’s Department of Education to local educational agencies (LEAs) for school year 1999-2000 using the Census Bureau’s 1995 school district poverty estimates.

Previously, Title I grants were distributed on a county basis, with the individual states having responsibility to redistribute the funds from counties to school districts. This redistribution was done using a variety of techniques that varied by state. Many states used 1990 census data, or 1990 census data combined with data from other programs targeting a poor population, such as

  • Aid to Families with Dependent Children,
  • The Food Stamp Program
  • Medicaid
  • The Foster Care Program, and
  • The School Lunch Program.

Other states used these alternative data sources only. Under the legislation that allocates funds directly to school districts, states can aggregate and then redistribute funds for school districts with a population of less than 20,000.

The poverty estimates are based on school districts, frequently called school systems in Alabama, as they existed in school year 1995-96. The U.S. Department of Education will provide guidance for state departments of education to use in accounting for eligible systems not on the Census Bureau’s list. The statute provides that a state, with Department of Education approval, may use alternative poverty data to redistribute allocations for all school systems serving fewer than 20,000 total residents. The Department will provide guidance for state education agencies seeking such approval.

Three estimates are provided for each school district: total population in 1995, the number of school-age children (ages 5-17) related to the head of household, and the number of related school-age children in families in poverty.

The school district estimates were created using a “synthetic estimator.” This was done by multiplying the number of poor children in a district from the 1990 census by the proportional change in child poverty in the county in which the district is located. The county change is computed as the change from the 1990 census to the Census Bureau’s county model estimates for 1995. School district poverty estimates were adjusted to sum to the county estimates. Note that the school district estimates consider all children in the district, irrespective of whether they attend public school. Estimates are generally more reliable for the larger districts. The “synthetic” estimates for school districts do not have the degree of precision normally associated with Census Bureau estimates.