Thurgood Marshall Elementary Loses $200,000 as Affluent, "Gifted" Students Move In

thurgood students.jpg
Robin Laananen
Students at Thurgood Marshall before the APP kids arrived.
When the Seattle School District last fall moved some 200 students in its "highly gifted" program into Thurgood Marshall Elementary, which was populated largely by poor and minority children, everybody knew officials risked creating another divided school rife with resentment between the haves and have nots.

Now there's a new twist at Thurgood Marshall to deepen the resentment: the Central District school is losing more than $200,000 in annual federal funding because of the demographic change brought by students in the "Accelerated Progress Program."

The district distributes federal "Title I" funding, earmarked for poor kids, to schools that have more than 55 percent of students who receive free or reduced-price lunches. This year, Thurgood Marshall easily qualified for the funding. The district looks at the preceding year's demographics, and poor kids represented 83 percent of the population.

With the APP kids, however, only 42 percent of students qualify for free or discounted lunches (see pdf)--and the district in recent weeks has told parents and staff that they would receive no Title I funding at all next year. (The school also went from 6 percent to 37 percent white.)

"For the children in the regular education program, they're going to slip through the cracks again," says Rose Wallace-Croone, who has two children in that program and sits on the board of the school's PTSA. She notes that the federal money has been used for tutoring and after-school programs, related to both academics and the arts.

APP parents have been upset too. "You feel like these kids are being hurt because we're here," says parent and PTSA boardmember Meg Diaz. Such parents did bring money with them. The PTSA at Capitol Hill's Lowell Elementary, where the APP students came from, split its budget when half its students left. Those going to Thurgood Marshall took nearly $100,000 with them--but that's still less than half of what the school received in federal funding.

The funding debacle adds to already heightened tensions between the two communities at the school. "The APP parents are the primary focus," says Wallace-Croone, adding that the two programs constitute "segregation in the truest form."

Diaz says that parents from both communities have been trying hard to work together but acknowledges that "it's been a rough year."

The district has not yet responded to a request for comment.

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