Education reform strategy suggests departing from current school funding methods, reallocating funds to empower educators and promote academic achievement, say CEE-Trust and Public Impact.

Individual urban schools in America are achieving outstanding results for students from low-income communities. But no urban school systems are achieving such results for most children in an entire city. Faced with this reality, state education agencies, local governments and districts across the country are looking for practical ways to promote change and boost academic improvement.

What should these systemic changes be? How can larger urban school districts identify best practices that can support long-term academic and financial success? How should they best implement these practices, and what is the appropriate role of each constituency in prompting necessary change?

In the latter part of 2013, the Missouri Board of Education’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (MoDESE) asked these questions as it sought to promote positive change in unaccredited school districts in the Kansas City Public Schools. MoDESE invited the Cities for Education Entrepreneurship Trust (CEE-Trust) and Chapel Hill, N.C.-based education policy and management consulting firm Public Impact to help answer them.

One way to maximize the possibilities of improving academic achievement is to re-allocate funding in a way that allows individual schools and school principals more autonomy over decision-making about academic programs and spending. This allows educators to use funds in ways they see best for improving student achievement, including flexibility to pay teachers more and offer a variety of student support services.

Afton Partners was invited by CEE-Trust and Public Impact to provide critical input on a proposed model and practices for realizing financial sustainability as part of their report. Our contribution was an overview and analysis of the historical and current sources and uses of funds at Kansas City Public Schools, from which we provided an assessment of the funds available to schools in Kansas City.

We then created a funding methodology that would shift a significant amount of funds from being centrally managed to being school-controlled, to promote local school decision-making that could allocate resources more closely in accordance with their pupils’ needs.

In Missouri and Kansas City’s schools, as in urban school districts across the country, the objective of reform efforts is to help assure students have a better chance to succeed academically, while the schools remain financially sustainable. We’re hopeful that our collaboration with CEE-Trust and Public Impact offers a productive way forward to MoDESE and becomes a model others can emulate to promote success.

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