Federal Funding as a Driver of School Reform through Budgetary Decision Making Among Transformational Leaders in Title I Schools
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Type of Work159 pages
DepartmentHood College Department Organizational Leadership
principal financial decision-making
Educational equity has been a long-standing goal among legislators since the passing of the Elementary and Secondary Act of 1965 (McLaughlin, 1975). While initially the focus was examining the disparity in resources available to schools in different geographical areas, as accountability measures were enacted, the achievement gap between socioeconomic disadvantaged groups and their peers emerged. Despite the many efforts of school reform from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which included provisions, Title I, to provide subsidies to schools servicing a high concentration of students from socioeconomically impacted communities, and the various iterations that followed, the discrepancy in student performance persists. There are, however, some economically impacted schools where gains are being made in narrowing this disparity in performance. Research related to student achievement have examined the impact of funding as well as the process that leaders use to make decisions (Lafortune, Rothstein, Schanzenbach, 2018; Bezzina, Gatelli, Grassetti, Vidoni, 2008; Martorell, Stange, McFarlin, Jr., 2015). The research, however, has neglected to study the concrete financial decisions made by principals coupled with leader behaviors that influence student outcomes. Rooted in Karl Marx’s theory of justice, this qualitative study contributes to the ongoing research around public education, funding, and equity to highlight strategies that leaders employ through the allocation of federal Title I funds that influence student achievement (Marx, 1976). With the moral underpinning of social responsibility as it relates to equitable opportunities for all, this research explores the ideology of Transformational Leadership and its presence in Title I leaders along with spending priorities and decision-making processes to create a level playing field for students. The information garnered from this research will support the development of school-based leaders through academic and district-based development programs. In Phase 1 of the study, district level state assessment scores for each Title I school in the sample were retrieved and analyzed to examine growth trends in the Title I schools across a 10-year period. The rate of growth in student performance was compared in two durations of time during NCLB (2010-2015) and ESSA (2016-2019). This performance data was used to further understand the leadership lens used in establishing budgetary priorities and processes among building leaders during these shifts in legislation. Phase 2 involved one-on-one interviews with Title 1 principals. Responses were coded where spending priority themes emerged, attention to the The People, The Landscape, The Foundation and The Soul. Phase 3 included two focus group sessions of five participants each. Principals included in these focus groups lead schools with a large socioeconomically disadvantaged population. However, the schools represented in the focus group samples do not qualify for the identification of Title I therefore are not recipients of Title I federal funding. Their responses coupled with those of Title I principals were used to align practices and procedures to the elements of Transformational Leadership. The combination of this data analysis asserts that effective school reform begins with a transformational leader who embodies charisma and develops a customized program for their school through collaboration and effective communication.