In order to meet ESSA’s requirement that they calculate and report how much gets spent in each school, state and local officials have had to separate out overhead and classroom costs, an arduous, months-long process. Several states had to purchase new school finance software or rejigger existing school finance software in order to figure out new categories of spending. According to an analysis by Edunomics, a school finance think tank at Georgetown University, at least 14 states now have published school-by-school spending amounts. Using this data, state lawmakers in New York and Georgia already have used the school spending amounts as a tool to scrutinize how districts spend a growing pot of state funds. That process has been politically contentious.
When the Hawaii Department of Education turned to a new “weighted student formula” to fund schools, a pressing concern was how that model might negatively impact geographically isolated schools with low student enrollment. Hana High and Elementary, a K-12 school on Maui’s east side, has seen its budget reduced by a third from nearly $3 million in the 2008-09 school year to $2 million in the 2016-17 school year… “It works for 98 percent of schools,” Hana’s recently retired principal, Richard Paul, said of the weighted student formula. “But it doesn’t work for us.” In the seven years since the formula took effect in Hawaii in 2006-7 to 2012-13, the total amount of dollars allocated to public schools increased by 11.3 percent, from $655.4 million to $729.7 million, according to a June 2013 assessment of the weighted student formula done by the American Institutes for Research. But some argue the system hammers the smallest schools, which sometimes don’t receive enough money through total pupil head count to afford to have someone teach just one subject or even supply textbooks.
America’s $23 billion school funding gap: Despite court rulings on equity, new report finds startling racial imbalance
Despite pivotal finance rulings, school funding in New Jersey, California, and New York remains among the most inequitable in the nation according to the new report by EdBuild, a nonprofit think tank that focuses on education spending. Nationally, EdBuild researchers found that school districts that mostly serve nonwhite students get $23 billion less in state and local spending each year than those with predominantly white student populations — even though they educate roughly the same number of children. Racial disparities in funding persisted even when poverty was considered. Nationally, poor white districts received nearly $1,500 more per student than districts serving poor nonwhite kids. Poor nonwhite districts got less money than low-income white districts in 17 states and they got more in 12 states.
Though the guidance does not require a spending test, it does require all districts to provide an allocation methodology. This is a spending rationale articulating how the district divvies up its funds across schools – something that’s missing in most districts. District leaders and school board members often don’t recognize the enormity of their role in deciding how to spend the country’s $650 billion public education budget. Many may not have ever articulated an approach to apportioning their public funds, or even thought through the range of options. Hopefully this requirement will prompt them to explore whether their budgets reflect an intentional strategy, habit, or something else.
MSU finance study finds education funding going backwards, with Michigan dead last among the states — and the disinvestment shows
In light of a new report on Michigan school finances, Kent County area superintendents say there’s no doubt more equitable school funding is needed. Findings show Michigan is dead last among all states in revenue growth for K-12 schools since voters approved Proposal A in 1994, which changed property taxes and school funding. Drops in achievement statewide have occurred during the same timespan, according to the 91-page report, “Michigan School Finance At The Crossroads: A Quarter Century of State Control”,…Godfrey-Lee Public Schools Superintendent Kevin Polston said the report brings awareness to a stark reality. “What it shows is the correlation between disinvestment in education and drop in rankings (comparing states),” said Polston, who leads Kent County’s highest-poverty district.
As Texas lawmakers consider increasing state education funding, some state education leaders fear a turn to outcome-based funding methods for part of that formula, allocating more money to schools based on 3rd-grade reading test scores and the number of graduating seniors who prove to be college- or career-ready. Top state officials have signaled their support for a plan recommended by a state-appointed school finance panel to spend a portion of the recommended education funding — about $800 million — on incentivizing superintendents to improve 3rd-grade reading scores and success rates of high school seniors. However, many education leaders are concerned such outcomes-based incentives will direct the flow of funds from schools that need it most, creating greater funding inequities between districts, and that it will simply encourage teaching to the tests or attempts to game the system. Texas has never tied funding to school performance before, and despite recommendations, lawmakers have yet to propose a bill in support.
Supplement not supplant is back: Why education advocates are concerned a wonky new ESSA spending proposal will hurt poor kids
Education advocates say a new Education Department proposal on school spending undermines a key rule that could help ensure equitable spending for low-income students. The wonky “supplement not supplant” rule, included in several reauthorizations of federal K-12 law, including the Every Student Succeeds Act, requires districts to show they’re not using federal Title I grants intended for low-income students when they should be using state and local money instead. Under the Education Department’s proposal, released Friday, districts would have to show their method for allocating funding is “Title I neutral,” meaning the district isn’t explicitly giving less to schools that educate large numbers of low-income children. That flexibility would give districts too much leeway in spending their federal grants, cutting at the heart of legal protections for low-income children, advocates say.
Business intelligence that relies on a district’s budget and fiscal data will become a fast-growing K-12 market in the next five years. Many school leaders are about to be caught off guard by the fiscal transparency requirement in new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Most schools do not currently collect this kind of information or if they do, they have not had to report it to the public. School leaders will, over a year or two, likely shift from a reactionary relationship with this information to a productive and strategic one. One probable response will be to adopt a model of continuous improvement that considers whether investments in personnel and non-personnel matters are productive. The topic will become a conference mainstay…and that’s when the market for school business intelligence that incorporates fiscal data will become attractive.
Study shows boosting funds to poor school districts lifts student achievement but fails to narrow racial & socioeconomic achievement gaps
An article published earlier this year in the American Economic Journal…finds that districts provided with increased revenues by school finance reforms see improvements in standardized test scores, though the extra money hasn’t helped close persistent gaps between various racial and socioeconomic groups. Not everyone is convinced of the study’s findings, however. Eric Hanushek, an education economist and fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution, said that, “The difficult analytical issue is how you separate out spending from all kinds of other things, like changing the requirements for teacher certification, or changing the accountability rules, or the variety of things that state legislatures do over time.”
ESSA requires districts to publish per-pupil allocations for actual personnel and non-personnel expenditures by each funding source (federal, state, and local funds), for each district, and school on their annual report cards. In the short term, superintendents and principals will need to get on the same page about current district allocation policies and practices, why some schools appear to get more resources than others, and how this all aligns with the stated vision and mission of the district. Over the long term, the new expenditure reporting requirements will push superintendents to be more strategic about managing productivity. This new transparency will make it easier for the public to investigate the relationship between academic and financial data.