Our View: Thompson’s Education Bill Makes Sense

Erie Times-News

U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson’s “All Children are Equal Act” ought to be called the “All Children Should Be Equal Act,” considering they clearly are not treated as equals in many ways.

But Thompson’s bill makes a lot of sense. Why should we continue to give preference, in terms of federal dollars, to poor children from large, inner-city school districts over poor children from small districts, whether in cities or rural areas.

All children in need deserve the same consideration for federal funds, and this could mean a lot of money for financially troubled school districts in the Erie region.

The Erie School District could receive about $730,000 more in federal funding if the bill passes, and school districts in our 3rd Congressional District stand to receive almost $1.7 million, according to the office of U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, R-3rd Dist., one of the co-sponsors of Thompson’s bill.

The bill, which has not reached a vote in either the House or Senate, would restructure how the federal government distributes Title I funding, giving more dollars to smaller districts at the expense of large districts like Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Title I funds are the largest pool of federal funds targeting poor students in elementary and secondary schools.

Thompson, of Howard Township, Centre County, R-5th Dist., represents parts of Crawford County and mostly rural areas in several counties all the way to central Pennsylvania.

Erie schools Superintendent Jay Badams strongly supports the bill, and for good reason. The extra money could be used to bring back specialists who worked one-on-one with struggling students, according to our education reporter Sean McCracken. The positions were eliminated so the district could keep full-day kindergarten.

The Erie School District was forced into a Solomon-like choice between two much-needed programs, and the program to help struggling students lost out.

Unfortunately, the additional funds, if the bill passes, wouldn’t be available until the 2012-13 school year, but it does have a bipartisan group of co-sponsors in the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. There is no equivalent bill in the Senate at this point.

Thompson deserves credit for the bill perhaps mostly because it’s a creative attempt to help districts that have been subject to huge state cuts as states reel from big deficits related mostly to the national recession.

Such cuts have hurt the Erie district, which recently reported that its alternative-education program will suffer greatly. The program for high school students, removing disruptive students from regular classrooms, will be hurt the most.

That’s alarming. The district, teachers and students will face even more obstacles to succeed.

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