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San Diego Unified has long wrestled with the best way to allocate the federal funding that is earmarked to help economically disadvantaged students, with parents and school board members from different areas sparring over the money. But a new proposal could change the conversation this year, and it seems to have already gained favor with parents.

Last year the school board turned down a staff proposal to shift more of the funding to schools with higher percentages of poor children. The money is already concentrated more heavily in poorer schools: Schools are divided into three tiers based on the percentage of poor children, and the most impoverished tier gets a larger sum per disadvantaged student than the middle tier, the middle tier gets more per student than the lowest tier, and the bottom tier gets the lowest sum per student.

The idea is that schools with a dense population of impoverished children face more challenges than those where poor children are mixed into a wealthier population with more resources and advantages. But the tiered system had a problem: A school that lost a small percentage of its poor children could suffer a sizable drop in federal funding if they found themselves in a lower tier.

This year, parents are talking about a sliding scale where schools get more and more federal funding depending on their percentage of poor students, and tiers are unnecessary. The idea was popular at a school district committee that oversees the use of the federal funding, which will make its recommendation to the school board in January.

EMILY ALPERT

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