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Arlee gathers community input for school grant program

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ARLEE – Federal Title 1 funds bolster Arlee’s math and literacy programs, but not without guidance from members of the community.

According to Montana’s Office of Public Instruction, Title 1 grants provide federal funds to “help low-achieving children master challenging curricula and meet state standards in core academic subjects.” The program requires that schools include community input when deciding how to use the funds.

On Jan. 16, school district grants manager Anna Baldwin held a community meeting to garner input for the 2019-2020 Title 1 program. Baldwin is also a high school English teacher in Arlee.

Baldwin said Title 1 funds could be used to pay the salary of a teacher or para-educator who focuses on specialized literacy or math support. They can also be used to purchase materials for classes.

“I want to know what parents would like to see on their end from their kids’ school,” she said.

Arlee qualifies for a school-wide Title 1 program because more than 40 percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunch on the basis of family income. Therefore the district can use the funds to benefit all students, rather than just those who qualify as high-need.

There are other avenues by which families shape the course of Title 1 funding. At parent-teacher conferences this fall, families filled out surveys about their desires for the way the funds would be used.

Title 1 also instructs the school to ask families to sign a “Student-Parent Compact.” The compact asks the family to actively support their child’s education by ensuring they attend school and complete their homework. The compact outlines the school’s responsibilities to the family, which include providing high-quality education and creating frequent opportunities for communication with families.

Baldwin will use the information she gathers to inform her requests for funds in the application for next school year’s Title 1 funds. She will work with the district’s principals to identify needs that can be filled by Title 1 funds.

Baldwin said the family engagement portion of the Title 1 program allows the community to have a say in what happens at the public school.

“Your federal funds are going to support these activities and supplies. What are some of the things you want?” she asks of the community.

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