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About one-third of charter schools in the state saw deep Title I funding cuts this year.

Alan Petersime

Federal officials: Ritz erred with charter school funding cuts

An email from the U.S. Department of Education to the Indiana Department of Education that Chalkbeat obtained says the state incorrectly applied provisions of federal law when determining this year’s Title I poverty aid for charter schools.

This year one-third of Indiana charter schools saw large cuts in their share of federal poverty aid known as Title I funding, prompting charter school leaders to complain that the state could be violating federal law. State officials announced earlier on Friday that they would seek federal guidance on how to distribute the funds.

“Based on the facts as (the U.S. Department of Education) understands them, corrective action by (the Indiana Department of education) will likely be required,” the email said.

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz’s department did not base Title I funding for charter schools on the prior year’s funding as the law requires, federal officials said. In doing so, charter schools got a “Title I allocation that declined by more than 15 percent from their FY 2014 total allocation,” the email said.

Less than one percent of traditional public school districts saw as steep of cuts, federal officials added.

Chalkbeat previously reported that the federal law says any “state education agency” (in this case, the Indiana Department of Education) cannot reduce the amount of Title I funding for a “local education agency” (a school district or individual charter school) by more than a certain percentage from the prior year.

These “hold harmless” rules are created to help schools stabilize their budgets from year to year.

The email from the U.S. Department of Education was sent to Ritz’s team at 8:45 a.m. Thursday. The Indiana Department of Education did not send out its release about seeking federal guidance until about 1 p.m. today.