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Lin Johnson is finance chief for Shelby County Schools, and one of 15 Tennesseans chosen for the new class of Mosaic Fellows.

Lin Johnson is finance chief for Shelby County Schools, and one of 15 Tennesseans chosen for the new class of Mosaic Fellows.

Memphis schools to lose $5 million in federal dollars for poor students

Shelby County Schools will lose $5 million in federal funding that provides extra dollars for high-poverty schools and districts, affecting about 11 schools in all next year.

That’s about 8 percent of the district’s Title I funding, and will mean the loss of some staff positions at three schools and decreased discretionary funding at eight others.

The reduction comes because the complex Title I formula allows for districts to lose federal funding even if the percentage of students in poverty hasn’t changed much. Also, the state can now withhold more federal money for school improvement efforts statewide under the recent federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Finance chief Lin Johnson delivered the bad news to the school board Tuesday night on the eve of presenting the district’s $945 million proposed spending plan to county commissioners for the next school year.

Board members urged Johnson to find a way to mitigate the losses through the district’s general fund, but Johnson said that would only widen disparities that Title I is meant to narrow.

“Trust me. We’re going to look at every angle we can,” Johnson said. “We don’t want to impact any school in an adverse way. But we’ll do everything we can under federal guidelines.”

Memphis is one of the poorest major metropolitan areas in the nation. Last year, about 60 percent of district’s students were considered economically disadvantaged. This year, all but three schools in the Memphis district qualified as Title I schools.

The three schools that will lose staff positions as a result of no longer qualifying for Title I are: Germantown High School, along with two schools for students with disabilities, Shrine School and Avon Lenox. But Johnson said he expects the district to be able to offset the losses and fill some of those jobs.

He was not able to provide a list of the eight schools that will lose discretionary funding.

Clarification, June 21, 2017: This story has been updated to include that the federal calculation of poverty was changed under the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Correction, July 29, 2017: A previous version of this story quoted a district official in reporting that the definition of impoverished students had changed under the Every Student Succeeds Act. The definition has not changed, but part of the reduction in Title I funding is due to changes in federal law.