Pass central office; go straight to kids
It was a bit slow on the uptake, but Rhode Island last month finally created its first ever state education funding formula. (It was, in fact, the only state without a formula until now.) These formulae are usually a big muddle that give districts and schools little autonomy, even as they try to even out dollars between property-tax rich suburbs and lower-income urban areas. RI tried to skip the muddle and do something, that at first blush, seems quite simple: Fund the child. But though this might sound like "weighted student funding," an approach of which we’re fans, it's not quite a home run. Though dollars will flow based on enrollment and demographics, districts and schools will have no greater freedom to spend those dollars nor will dollars truly "follow the child" from school to school. We'll admit to being tough critics—it is a state not local funding scheme, after all, and to its credit, enrollment numbers will be updated every year, reallocating dollars accordingly, while poor students will be "weighted" 40 percent more than the baseline per pupil allotment. Even better, charter and district schools will be funded equally by the state, which is great news for Rhode Island's charter schools. But that leaves us wondering: When you've made it to second base, why not take it to home plate?
“New Rhode Island School Funding Formula Aims at Equity,” by Lesli A. Maxwell, Education Week, July 19, 2010