AEFP 45th Annual Conference Program
Chair:, Michigan State University
Chair:, American Institutes for Research
Chair:, University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Chair:, University of California
Chair:, University of Kentucky
Chair:, RAND Corporation
Chair:, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chair:, Southern Methodist University
Chair:, Superintendent Omaha Public Schools
The reliability and validity of measuring a student’s family socio-economic status is basic to ensuring that the allocation of school funding supports the education of all students, especially those furthest from opportunity. For decades, states relied solely upon student enrollment in the National School Lunch Program’s (NSLP) Free and Reduced-Price Lunch (FRPL) program to identify students from low-income families. However, sole reliance on FRPL enrollment as a proxy for student poverty has limitations, including lack of verification, since the data is self-reported, or lack of family enrollment in the program. Further, the advent of the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) to FRPL, a component of the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which permits schools comprised of over 40 percent FRPL-eligible students to provide free lunch for the entire school, obscures individual student family income information because it does require CEP schools to collect individual student income data.
In response to concerns about sole reliance on FRPL for identifying students from low-income families, many states have explored alternative measures to identifying students from low-income families—ranging from deeming students who are involved in the foster care system or those whose families are enrolled in public programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Medicaid as low-income.
Many states are now asking—what are comprehensive and reliable measures of student poverty? This question is foundational to states’ ability to target funding and other needed resources to support schools serving high numbers of students from low-income families.
Unfortunately, the various approaches which states employ to determine student poverty, such as reliance upon family enrollment in public programs like SNAP or Medicaid, have the inherent risks. For example, undercounting or omitting students whose families may be reluctant to enroll in public programs may occur when relying upon direct certification of student family enrollment in such public programs. This risk is of great concern now as many impacted families, such as immigrant families, may be reluctant to enroll in public programs out of fear of retaliation or identification of status.
Panelists, which include school finance specialists and state policymakers, will examine the limitations of continued reliance on FRPL status as a sole measure of student poverty, the impact of the CEP on FRPL data, and the pros and cons of employing alternative approaches to measuring student poverty.
Panelists will offer recommendations for policymakers and stakeholders who are seeking to reliable ways to identify students from low-income families in order to target funding to provide supports and services that will help improve educational outcomes.