“The $300 million increase … is split evenly between two of those four formulas, with targeted and finance incentive grants each getting $150 million more in fiscal 2018 than fiscal 2017…Targeted grants provide more money per child as a district’s poverty rate increases, while finance incentive grants are designed to address funding environments in “good finance”—those that spend relatively large amounts on schools and do so equitably—and “bad finance” states.”
Indianapolis, Puerto Rico, and three other school districts have applied to join the Every Student Succeeds Act’s weighted student-funding pilot during the 2018-19 school year. Participating districts can combine federal, state, and local dollars into a single funding stream tied to individual students. English-language learners, children in poverty, and students in special education—who cost more to educate—would carry with them more money than other students.
Will Texas school finance panel tell schools to do more with less? Some members think it’s predetermined
He said the commission has also heard from school leaders with innovative ideas on subjects such as how to keep the best teachers at the most challenging schools and how to use full-day pre-K to get students at an academic baseline early in life. “Those two things without question cannot be funded or sustained with the current funding levels we have,” Bernal said. “Even the districts that piloted it said they were about to run out of money.”
The change is expected to save the district about $1 million a year, but Brighton Superintendent Chris Fiedler previously told Chalkbeat that the biggest benefit will be “to attract and retain teachers” in a district whose salaries are among the lowest in the metro area. “I realize this will be a significant change for our students, their families, and the communities we are so fortunate to serve, but our district can no longer be expected to do more with less financial resources,” Fiedler said in a press release.
School districts spend on average about 22 percent of their budgets on special education, Donahue said — up from 13 percent in 2006-07, according to an association survey of business administrators. While districts can’t increase their budgets by more than 2 percent without voter approval, “special-education costs have no cap,” Donahue said. The costs have added to school district budget pressures in a state with some of the highest property taxes in the country — and that has for years failed to follow its formula for distributing money to schools.
Under the compromise S.F. 455 version, $2.8 million was set aside to increase the per-pupil allocation by $5 per student in 161 districts, including Davenport. In those districts, there is up to $175 per pupil inequity in the funding. Meanwhile, the bill also provides that 140 of the state’s 333 school districts will get a share of the $11.2 million to deal with transportation funding inequities. Transportation costs run as high as $970 per pupil per year at North Winneshiek.
The state has been grappling with ways to cut costs in some districts where student population has plummeted. Separately, charter school advocates and public school officials have bickered over whether they’re getting their fair share of state funds. “We are public officials, and this adds another level of transparency for the public to see what we do on a daily basis,” he said.
ESSA requires districts to break out school-level spending by December 2019—a first-time federal requirement. It’s a level of detail unknown even to most district superintendents. Various interest groups are split over whether such items as transportation, technology, special education, and pre-K—some of the biggest drivers of the rise in school spending—should be categorized as regular school costs, or as extraordinary costs or overhead. Illinois ultimately decided to leave some decisionmaking authority with district officials over how to split those costs. “There are ramifications for each decision point,” Wolfe said. “We had to ask how does it help make data-driven decisions within districts?” said Robert Wolfe, Illinois’ chief financial officer.
In an effort to make it easier to see how school districts in California are spending their funds to improve education outcomes, Gov. Jerry Brown wants to require school districts to publish in their annual budgets a summary of the funds they plan to spend on low-income children, English learners and other high-needs students.
For two decades, the state’s goal on paper has been to spend more money on poor students than on their wealthier peers. In fact, that’s become the goal in much of the U.S. as a wave of court decisions have directed states to send more money to poorer school districts so their students have an equal shot at meeting their states’ academic expectations. Still, most states, like Maine, fall short of that goal. Most manage merely to spend roughly equal amounts per student, according to a 2017 analysis of state education spending by the Urban Institute.