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U.S. asks Indiana education agency for data on poverty funds

September 30, 2015

U.S. officials have asked the Indiana Department of Education for information on how it allocated federal poverty aid to charter and traditional public schools the past five years amid questions over this year's allocations, the state agency disclosed Wednesday.

The Indiana Department of Education has begun the process to provide the necessary documentation after U.S. Department of Education officials requested it in a conference call with officials of the state Department of Education and staff from the Indiana State Board of Education and the Indiana Charter School Board.

"During the call, federal officials expressed that it is possible that both charter and traditional public schools may have received an excess allocation of federal dollars over the years," the Indiana Department of Education said in a news release.

The development came two days after a spokesman for the state agency said it would comply with rules governing the distribution of the Title I funds to charter schools this year after federal officials informed Indiana it had shortchanged them in some cases.

Indiana has not changed its formula for Title I allocations in more than a decade, the state agency said.

Title I dollars are provided by the federal government to help schools with high levels of low-income students. This year, it's possible many schools will see reduced funding, the state agency said. Federal stimulus funding prevented similar reductions in previous years.

Federal rules say states must give districts and charter schools at least 85 percent of their previous year's allocation of Title I funding. However, the Charter School Board has said 22 of the 39 charter schools receiving Title I funding experienced cuts of more than 15 percent while no traditional public school did.

Michelle McKeown, interim executive director and general counsel of the Indiana Charter School Board, said some charter schools have been questioning this year's allocations since May but have not received "plausible responses" from the state.

"Our charter schools can be optimistic they'll see some sort of resolution," McKeown, who participated in the teleconference, said.

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