Guest blogger Paul T. Hill is the director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education and the author of a recent paper in Fordham’s Creating Sound Policy for Digital Learning series, “School Finance in the Digital-Learning Era.”
Futurists have long regaled us with predictions about technology dramatically improving education by giving millions more students access to the very best teachers and deploying computer-based systems that allow them to learn at their own pace at whatever time and place works best for them. This vision is now becoming a reality, partly because tight budgets are forcing K-12 schools to employ fewer teachers and boost the productivity of those who remain.
Saving money is only part of technology’s educational potential, however. More important is individualization and rapid adaptation to what a student is learning, leading to the possibility of greater and more consistent growth. Managing equipment, web links and vendor contracts is also far nimbler than re-organizing people.
All this potential notwithstanding, however, plenty of policy and structural barriers stand in the way of widespread adoption of technology in K-12 education. Perhaps the toughest of these is our traditional approach to school funding.
Simply put: Our current education finance system doesn’t actually fund schools and certainly doesn’t fund students. Rather, it pays for district-wide programs and staff positions. Much of it is locked into personnel contracts and salary schedules—and most of
Education technology is a hot sector for innovative entrepreneurs and ambitious investors. While interest and investment in digital education skyrocket, though, the inflexibility of the existing school funding system may stifle its potential—at least according to Paul T. Hill in “School Finance in the Digital-Learning Era,” the latest installment in Fordham’s Creating Sound Policy for Digital Learning series. As Hill writes,
Our system doesn’t fund schools, and certainly doesn’t fund students. Yet to encourage development and improvement of technology-based methods, we must find ways for public dollars to do just that—and to follow kids to online providers chosen by their parents, teachers, or themselves.
The paper, released Wednesday, argues that unlocking the vast potential of digital learning requires streamlining funding into a “backpack” model where dollars follow individual students, allowing families to select from a robust and diverse range of digital and traditional educational options. Download the paper to find out more, and explore experts’ reactions on Flypaper.
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About the Editor
Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow
Chris Tessone was a Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow and the Director of Finance of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. He has strong interests in governance and education finance, especially teacher compensation and school facilities finance.
May 23, 2013