FORT WORTH, Texas -- Third-graders Alexis Segovia and Keiy’ana Cook like fiction, especially stories about Meli, a dog character featured in a series of books they read at West Handley Elementary in east Fort Worth.

When the two 8-year-olds started working with tutor Susan Titus last year they weren’t reading at grade level, but they made huge gains after participating in 30-minute sessions four times a week.

Titus beamed as she described their accomplishment.

“Honestly, it almost brings me to tears,” she said. “I have a passion for this community and these kids.”

The money that pays for the tutoring program at West Handley comes from Title I, Part A, a federal program that provides funding to schools serving economically disadvantaged students nationwide. School leaders say these dollars are critical because they boost teachers working with students who face immense barriers to learning — from hunger to poverty to broken families.

But this school year, because of changes in federal laws, some school districts have seen their allocations drop, forcing administrators to make tough decisions about what programs to keep — and which ones to let go.

Tarrant County school districts lost almost $7 million when compared with last year.

Arlington schools saw a decrease of $3.3 million.

Fort Worth schools saw a drop of $2.3 million.

“These are the dollars we use to support children who meet criteria for socioeconomic disadvantaged status,” said James Schiele, chief financial officer for Eagle Mountain-Saginaw schools, which lost more than $50,000 compared with the previous school year.

“They are the group that is most at-risk for failure in schools. Failure to provide additional resources to support at-risk kids will have a dramatic negative impact on these children’s lives and the country as a whole,” Schiele said.

At West Handley Elementary, where 90 percent of the students participate in the free and reduced lunch program, keeping reading tutors such as Titus meant the school sacrificed another program. The school lost $20,000 in Title I, Part A funding and decided to cut the Communities in School program, which helps find resources for struggling families and students.

“We have been able to work through it, but it is a budget game,” said Julie Moynihan, principal at West Handley. “We have to be more intentional with the money we spend on people.”

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