Gwinnett aims to spread stimulus funds to all Title 1 schools

Gwinnett County Public Schools is seeking to broaden its outlay of Title 1 stimulus funding to include all 42 schools that qualify as having high populations of students from low-income families.

The school district is asking the state for a waiver so the $19.2 million it has been allocated can be divided among all its Title 1 schools. A school typically qualifies for Title 1 if at least 40 percent of its students come from low-income families as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Under federal guidelines, the Title 1 stimulus money must be set aside to fund Title 1 schools that fall in the "needs improvement" category for academics under the No Child Left Behind Act. These are schools that must offer parents the choice to transfer their children and provide supplemental educational services, such as tutoring. Gwinnett has three such schools: Berkmar and Meadowcreek high schools; and Richards Middle School. All three have met their annual yearly progress goals for 2009, but they must meet them again this year to be removed from the "needs improvement" list.

The district says it has already set aside sufficient funds to cover these programs in its regular Title 1 allocation and is seeking approval from the Georgia Department of Education to redirect the stimulus funds. It also says it has accommodated all parents opting for choice and has met the needs of all students requiring supplemental educational services.

"Rather than setting aside more funds for what we already have covered, we are seeking to redirect the funds so that all 42 schools can benefit," school district spokeswoman Sloan Roach said.

She said district officials have met with a parent advisory committee, and feedback suggests members thought the waiver would be a good idea.

The school board is scheduled to hear comments from the public at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, just before its regular monthly meeting at the district office in Suwanee.