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Report to the Legislature on the Calculation of Low-Income Students

Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
December 9, 2016


At the Board's June 23, 2015, meeting, I briefed the members of the Board on planned changes in our methodology for identifying "low-income" students for funding and other statistical purposes. These changes were necessitated by changes to the eligibility requirements for free and reduced priced school meals under the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) that were implemented by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. NSLP eligibility had long been used in K-12 education as a proxy for low-income status. Under the new NSLP rules, a significant number of schools in poorer communities were given the option of offering free school meals to all students, while reducing the requirements to collect and verify family income data.

Starting with the 2015-16 school year, the Commonwealth adopted a new measure and identified students as "economically disadvantaged" for state funding purposes if they were receiving benefits from any one of a number of state assistance programs, such as Transitional Aid for Families with Dependent Children or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. To offset the impact of the smaller number of students identified under this new measure, the Governor and the Legislature adopted a significant increase in the per pupil rates for low-income students in the Chapter 70 formula.

The FY17 state appropriations act directed the Department, in consultation with the Executive Offices of Health and Human Services and Administration and Finance, to study our new approach to identifying low-income students and report back on its impact on Chapter 70 and other state education funding. We expect the final report to be completed shortly. Deputy Commissioner Jeff Wulfson and Associate Commissioner Rob Curtin will provide an update at our December meeting.

Last Updated: December 13, 2016
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