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Bay State to get fewer US dollars for poor students

WASHINGTON -- Massachusetts will be among 11 states that will get less federal money for poor students next school year, while the 39 other states and the District of Columbia will get more, new figures show.

The dollar changes came about for two reasons: the use of new estimates of where poor students live and overall spending increases in the federal aid program known as Title I.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, said he plans to fight the state's estimated loss of $26.5 million. "I, for one, am going to fight this latest Bush education cut at every opportunity," he said.

Bush officials say that authorized spending levels were meant to be caps, not promises, and that the federal government has never put greater emphasis on helping poor students.

Under law, the Education Department is supposed to use the most current, reliable population data in determining how to distribute more than $12 billion. So the agency has plugged in census data released last year, reflecting family incomes in 2000.

Lawmakers in some states have objected, saying that the estimates do not accurately reflect their school districts and that poor schools will suffer as demands on them grow. Senators of both parties have asked the department to reconsider. It does not plan to do so.

"We have not heard from anyone who has provided a substantive explanation for why the numbers shouldn't be adopted," Todd Jones, a department budget official, said yesterday.

The other 10 states that will get less money are Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, based on preliminary estimates. The final spending numbers are expected within a few weeks.

Within all states, some school districts will gain federal money and some will lose, as intended to reflect shifts in population. But fewer districts would take such a big hit if the Bush administration had met its promise to help needy schools, said Judd Legum, deputy research director at the Center for American Progress, a Democrat-affiliated policy institute.

Federal spending on Title I hit a record $12.3 billion for the next school year, up more than $650 million in one year. But $18.5 billion was authorized under Bush's education law.

"It's going to be very hard for a lot of these districts to live up to the federal standards they must now live up to," Legum said. Schools that receive federal poverty aid and fail to meet progress goals for at least two years get assistance, but also face sanctions.

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