The education funding and policy world in Michigan is filled with jargon and technical terms that make the whole subject confusing for non-specialists. We'll use this document to try to clarify some of those terms for parents who want to gain a better understanding of the K-21 policy debates in our state.
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In the educational policy world, this term is used to describe a category of students whose family incomes are low enough, or whose living situation is stressed enough, that their situation would affect their ability to succeed in school, making them a subgroup of special concern to school administrators. Getting at family income, and especially at long-term poverty, can be difficult because schools cannot require families to disclose their income (unless they are applying for specific programs). Schools must often report the academic results for "economically disadvantaged" students along with other identified sub-groups, such as racial and ethnic minorities and English Language Learners (non-native English speakers). Reporting this information is an attempt to see how schools are doing in meeting the needs of children living in poverty, as distinct from the overall average.
Under current Michigan and Federal rules (2016-17), the term "economically disadvantaged" includes students qualifying for school lunch program assistance, either because of an application or because of participation in another program:
- Based on an application to a school district:
- students eligible for free lunch under the Federal school lunch act (family income up to 130% of the federal poverty level, as adjusted for family size);
- students eligible for reduced-price lunch under Federal rules (family income up to 185% of the federal poverty level for that family size);
- See also "Free and Reduced Price Lunch"
- Automatically included as eligible for free school lunch based on participation in other programs:
- those receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) support, including all children in the same household;
- those receiving Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) support, including all children in the same household;
- a student in the Foster Child program, but not including other children in the same household;
- a student eligible for Migrant Education Program services;
- a student eligible for programs under the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA); and,
- a student eligible for assistance under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.
Note: Federal law allows schools with over 40% of their students automatically eligible for free lunch to offer free meals to all their students without requiring applications, using something called the "Community Eligibility Provision" (CEP). However, Michigan counts as economically disadvantaged only those students who were individually eligible either automatically or by application.
Free and Reduced Price Lunch