Sequestration limits Title I efforts to boost reading, student achievement

On a tour of Durham Elementary School last week, U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici stopped to admire a small sign telling students how to deal with bullies.

“Tell them to stop,” it read. “Tell an adult.”

“We could use one of these in Congress,” she said, laughing.

Bonamici, who represents Oregon’s 1st Congressional District, was touring the Tigard elementary school to learn more about how cuts to Title I programs have affected students and call on Congress to end across-the-board cuts to education.

A Title I school, Durham receives federal funding, which helps pay for intervention programs and support efforts to teach students how to read. by: JAIME VALDEZ - Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici, right, meets with staff at Durham Elementary School to discuss cuts to federal education funding, including Title I, which went into effect under sequestration.

“If we didn’t have (Title I funding), our students wouldn’t be as successful,” said Principal Joyce Woods.

Title I funding goes to schools with a high percentage of low-income students. Durham has a large population of non-English-speakers and low-income students, but has managed to carve a name for itself as one of the state’s top performing schools, according to the Oregon Department of Education.

The school’s entire Title I funding goes to staffing literary specialists who help students learn to read.

“It’s not theoretical,” Bomamici said. “These are real kids we are talking about.”

The sequester has cut Title I funding from Durham to the tune of about $50,000.

That’s small potatoes compared to some schools, but that funding means students receive less time building literacy and language skills, Woods said.

Bonamici, a Democrat, has called on budgeters in Congress to reverse cuts to federal education funding caused by sequestration.

“Title I dollars are well spent and really make a difference in educating our students,” Bonamici said. “If they are cut, it has a real impact on students’ education.”

In a statement after her tour, Bonamici said schools have enough to worry about with state and local funding cuts.

“It is wrong to cut funding for reading programs when schools are already struggling with limited resources,” she said. “Last year, Durham was one of the highest achieving Title I schools in Oregon. Their programs are working. We should be encouraging and supporting the efforts of teachers and administrators at this school and in schools across Oregon.”

Bonamici has called for an end to “sequestration,” which was passed into law before Bonamici was elected in 2012.

Oregon’s federal education funding was cut by $85 billion for the 2013-14 fiscal year as a result of these indiscriminate cuts.

“Funding isn’t the only issue we need to address in our schools, but the more we cut, the harder it is for teachers to do their job,” she said. “Durham is a highly successful school; they’ve been doing more with less for too long. We can’t continue to expect great results if we keep cutting budgets.”

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