Districts Must Walk a Fine Line to Fund RTI Programs
Education Week: February 28, 2011
By Sarah D. Sparks
As response to intervention becomes more popular, education leaders find the framework’s fluidity and broad application at times can be an awkward fit for some of the federal programs often used to pay for it.
RTI’s individual student-focused philosophy often clashes with the rigid, decades-old school infrastructure of services provided based on students’ grant eligibility.
That’s a problem because, while schools get considerable spending flexibility if they can completely consolidate all federal, state, and local money in a “schoolwide” program, the fiscal requirements of each grant can cause problems if schools do not unify programs and funding properly.
Under most circumstances, a district cannot use federal money to pay for something already mandated by state or local law; such use of federal grants runs counter to the requirement that aid such as Title I for disadvantaged students supplement, rather than supplant, local support for education.
Money under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act can be used to support any services based on a child’s individualized education program. But only the 15 percent available for early-intervention services for students at academic risk can be used for students who have not been diagnosed with a disability, and according to federal rules, that money must be tracked even in a schoolwide Title I school–a school that has been given permission to pool federal funds to serve all children because of a high concentration of poor students.