Now that it is clear that Texas’ complicated school finance system is here to stay, districts around the state must find a way to move forward — whether that is by pressuring lawmakers for more money or by raising property taxes.
By Marguerite Roza, Ph.D., Director of the Edunomics Lab and Research Professor at Georgetown University – For more than a decade, the federal government has required districts to report student outcomes by school. Spending was the missing piece. The new federal ESSA rights that wrong and will require districts to account for school-by-school spending and publicly report it. When the spending data are daylighted, the evidence will be clear that many districts have hardwired systematic spending inequities in their operations.
The report— “Expanding Equity: Leveraging the Every Student Succeeds Act to Provide Direct Student Services”—is a kind of how-to-guide for states and districts interested in taking advantage of the chance to set aside 3 percent of statewide Title I funds for “direct student services.”
During a presentation at the Council of Chief State School Officers’ legislative conference, Mississippi education department officials as well as two Title I policy experts encouraged state leaders to work with districts on more creative uses of Title I and other money to better support student learning, and to make sure broader groups of officials are thinking about and overseeing how schools use federal funds.
This policy proposal lays out a series of reforms to Title I. It proposes ways to promote local spending decisions that are both efficient and true to the original antipoverty intent of the program, and changes to the multiple complex and opaque funding formulas to improve transparency and progressivity, depoliticizing the distribution of funds.
The voucher-style ESA program is easily the most sweeping school choice program of its kind in the nation…In an effort to stop the program from being scrapped by the courts, which could doom similar programs in other states in the future, national school choice groups have set their sights on Nevada and thrown their weight behind defending the program. On the other side, the national Education Law Center has done the same.
The newly reauthorized version of the main federal K-12 law makes significant changes in how schools can use dollars set aside for economically disadvantaged students. Those and other changes give states and districts more flexibility in general—and particularly in how they use Title I aid. Around four dozen districts will also get the chance to create a new funding formula, using federal dollars, that’s intended to target more money directly to students from low-income backgrounds and other students, like English-language learners, who may have disadvantages.
“The state also cushions the blow to district schools by reimbursing them over a six-year period for some of the aid they lose. It is the most generous reimbursement policy of any state, though it has not always been fully funded. The goal is to give traditional public schools a reasonable period of time to cut costs to account for the loss of state aid.”
With a perceived inequality regarding funding for district schools and charter schools, based on the fact that charter schools are funded on their Oct. 1 Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU) in comparison to district schools, which are funded by their average daily membership, both charter schools and district schools want to see change — an equalization in the amount of funding provided by the state.
Weighted average daily attendance, the cost of education index, “golden pennies” — the way state and local tax dollars funds public schools is complex set of concepts that takes time and effort to understand. In addition, as a result of seven lawsuits challenging the system’s constitutionality since 1984, Texas has ended up with a patchwork set of formulas, weights and measures that is updated in some areas and outmoded in others.