School systems face major federal funding cuts


KINGSPORT, Tenn. - School systems across our region are facing major cuts after a reduction of federal funding. This year, schools are facing cuts to Title I funding. Next year's proposed federal budget calls for a total elimination of Title II funding.

"If we have another loss like this next year, then it will be a very significant hit," Lamar Smith, Kingsport schools supervisor of federal programs, said. "I don't know if we can withstand that without doing some major changes next year."

Kingsport is losing teacher's assistants and some equipment after a $259,000 cut to the system's Title I funds. Those funds are given to schools with high poverty rates. They must have at least 40 percent of students on the federal free or reduced lunch program to qualify. Five of Kingsport's eight elementary schools are eligible.

According to Smith, Kingsport's Title I losses are due to cuts introduced during the federal budget sequestration in 2013. The sequestration led to an automatic $725 million dollar cut to Title I, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Those cuts are now starting to impact the schools. Kingsport is not the only system affected.

"We're all kind of in the same boat," Smith said. "Fortunately, we are just at a little bit better level to weather some of those storms than they are at this point."

Last week, Elizabethton City Schools began discussing options for recovering funding. Elizabethton's West Side Elementary is losing $85,000 after the expiration of its Title I grandfathered status. Superintendent Corey Gardenhour said West Side was allowed to keep Title I status previously under the No Child Left Behind Act even though the school has only 28 percent of students on free and reduced lunch because the school previously qualified.

Both Kingsport and Elizabethton are concerned about future cuts with the federal budget currently being considered in Congress. In the new budget, President Trump has recommended a total elimination of Title II funding, which is used for teachers' professional development. He believes the funds are ineffective at accomplishing their goal.

Title II accounts for $77,000 at Elizabethton City Schools. It's $325,000 for Kingsport.

Smith expects only a cut to Title II funding but not a total elimination.

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