Governor Kasich should follow Governor Scott’s school-funding lead
Governor John Kasich’s decision to take his second State of the State address on the road has been big news in Ohio (see here). More interesting than the history (Kasich is the first governor to deliver the address outside of Columbus) is that he will be delivering his speech at Steubenville’s high performing Wells Academy, which has long been lauded by the Education Trust as a “Dispelling the Myth” school. One hopes the choice of venue is matched by a focus on needed reforms in education.
Governor Kasich and legislative Republicans delivered some sizeable reforms in the state’s biennial budget last June. But there is much left to be done. The most pressing issue facing the state is putting in place a proper school funding plan. The biennial budget dismantled the state’s ill-conceived move toward an evidence-based model of school funding and promised a new funding formula before the next biennium. The governor and his team need to deliver.
Fordham has long-advocated (with many others) for a move toward a weighted, student-based funding system based on three key principles:
- Full state funding (and, properly encouraged, local funding) follows the child to the school the he or she attends, including charter schools. (This could also be extended, voucher-like, to private schools willing to participate fully in the state’s academic accountability system.)
- Per-pupil amounts vary according to children’s individual learning needs and circumstances. For example, disabled and economically disadvantaged youngsters would have additional dollars in their “funding backpacks.”
- Resources arrive at the school as real dollars that can be spent flexibly with an emphasis on results, rather than on predetermined programs, rigid staffing rations (or number of positions), and immutable activities.
Weighted student funding equitably directs more funds to schools that serve high proportions of needy children, regardless of where they live, and it ensures that a student’s school receives all of the resources generated by that student, whether it’s a district neighborhood school, a magnet school, a STEM school, or a charter school and regardless of whether it is located in a poor or affluent neighborhood, a tranquil suburb or a tough urban neighborhood. Weighted student funding enables school leaders and other educators to deploy available resources in ways that meet the needs of their specific pupils, aligning authority and responsibility in a modern, performance-oriented management system, and making resources flexible even as their total quantity may be reduced. WSF also fosters accountability, for if fewer children enroll in a school, its budget shrinks, which gives management and staff strong incentives to improve their school’s effectiveness.
A weighted student funding system would encourage flexibility, as Ohio schools would be free to determine how to use their funds.
Of course, when it comes to school funding, lawmakers always look to the bottom line: What will the new formula mean for schools in my legislative district? Here, Governor Kasich and lawmakers should bite the bullet and find some new money for schools to assist in the transition to a more effective system of funding. They wouldn’t be alone among Republicans. Florida’s Governor Rick Scott, for example, urged lawmakers in his January 10 State of the State to boost spending on education. He argued, “While lowering taxes and eliminating unnecessary regulations are critical, the bedrock of any sound, sustainable economy is an educated workforce well equipped to meet the challenges of an advanced global marketplace.” Governor Scott is seeking $1 billion more annually for schools.
Governor Kasich should follow Scott’s lead, but attach all new money to a new funding formula that pushes innovation, equity for schools of choice, and more control of decision making for the educators closest to the kids.
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June 5, 2013