The Arkansas Department of Education acknowledges that we are experiencing some difficulty with plan approval for Title I and Title VI. We are working diligently to correct these concerns. However, your help is needed. A four-step approach will be used to explain.
Step 1 Identify the Problem
Step 2 Identify Areas of Agreement
Step 3 Identify Areas Needing Change
Step 4 Implementation of a Plan of Action
Step 1: Identify the Problem
Districts have questioned the delay in federal funds getting to their schools because the Arkansas Department of Education does not process the plans in a timely manner.
A function of Federal Programs is to provide financial assistance to schools. The financial assistance schools receive is based on compliance with federal law. It is not based on any one person's interpretation of that law. A detailed process is currently in place for processing Title I school plans. This process includes step-by-step actions taken by the Title I staff beginning from the time a plan is submitted for approval. The process is similar for Title VI. Our staff will make modifications to this process when appropriate.
Additionally, with the increased accountability that was added to the Title I program in the 1994 re-authorization and the added responsibility placed on each entity, the state educational agency, the local educational agency and local schools, the required paperwork becomes more important and cannot be regarded as a trivial matter.
Step 2: Identify Areas of Agreement
We agree that schools should receive federal funds as quickly as possible.
We agree that the same process should apply to all school districts.
We agree that the law should be followed and compliance is necessary for an effective program.
We agree that technical assistance is important.
We agree that we need to be responsive to the needs of schools.
Step 3: Areas Needing Change
If we are going to adequately address the concerns regarding the Title I and Title VI plan approval process, we all need to understand how the process works. The agency cannot and will not release funds simply because they are requested. Keep in mind that the purpose of Title I and Title VI is to help children in poverty situations perform academically. These programs provide wonderful opportunities for schools to provide staff development training, program implementation, needs assessments, innovative research techniques, and overall school improvement for all students.
Please know that if a plan is submitted by a school and not followed, there is an evaluation process that is required by federal law. If a district is not in compliance, this could mean withholding of funds until compliance problems are addressed.
The main area needing change is our awareness and understanding of the total process. We want to work with schools to simplify the process where and when we can. The Arkansas Department of Education will follow the law.
Step 4: Implementation of a Plan of Action
In addition to the current approval process that is followed by the Title I and Title VI staff, the Title I office, in an attempt to lessen the paperwork, initiated a process to allow submission of the total plan in the first year of implementation and yearly updates to that plan in the remaining years. This has not always worked well because local schools and local education agencies made changes that could not be reflected in the updates.
The Title I office has also implemented a process of conditional approval based not on the Title I plan, but on the submission of two reports - the Annual Financial Report and the Demographic Data Collection Report. In this way, schools and school districts receive funds while the Title I plans are being reviewed for approval.
Finally, we are in the process of placing a Title I and Title VI help page on the Web. We want to provide information to members of staff about how to complete the applications, who to call for assistance and a calendar of events. We want to open the door for frequent communication in an effort to respond to concerns you have shared with us.
Your feedback is welcomed. We anticipate your favorable response to our efforts to address your concerns. We know it is your goal and our goal to give the children of Arkansas the best possible education.