Restructuring Resources for High-Performing Schools

Amanda Pierce

With ever increasingly tight public school budgets,
Education Resource Strategies (ERS) could not be timelier in the release of its
policy brief related to how to maximize school spending.

In Restructuring
Resources for High-performing Schools,
Karen Hawley Miles, Karen Baroody,
and Elliot Regenstein take a careful look at barriers that make it difficult
for public schools to use resources effectively and efficiently. In particular,
ERS argues that state policymakers must address four areas in order to ensure
the maximum effectiveness of their spending:

How schools organize
personnel and time 

With class-size reduction linked positively to student
performance only in early elementary grades, class size requirements and
required staffing ratios should be eliminated. Similarly, flexibility in
meeting student needs can be achieved by eliminating seat time requirements in
non-core subjects.

When it comes to teachers, policymakers should boot
state-mandated pay incentives tied to longevity and additional education and
replace them with those awarded to effective, high-contributing teachers. A
fair and transparent process for removing low-performing teachers should also
be created. 

How districts and
schools spend special education dollars

A myriad of restrictions make it difficult for special
education funds to be cut or reallocated, often at the expense of general
education students. Public schools should establish and support early
intervention programs to reduce the number of students placed in the special
education system, do away with rigid staffing requirements that don’t take
student progress into account and provide incentives for teachers to obtain
certification in both special education and specific content areas. 

How districts
allocate resources to schools and students

To dodge roadblocks put in place by restrictive categorical
funding, these fragmented funding streams should be combined and their goals
reanalyzed. Additionally, states should shift funding rules away from things
like time requirements and class sizes, and toward creating accountability
around outcomes.    

What information
districts gather on resources and spending

With 48 percent of education funding coming from state
coffers, districts can significantly influence student performance by
harnessing this funding and using it wisely. Districts should be encouraged to
seek more transparency in their district-level resource use and outcomes.

In short, the name of the game is flexibility.  By eliminating restrictive mandates and
requirements and allowing for flexibility in fund allocation, public school
funds may be more effectively used to meet the needs of all students and
encourage high-performing teachers.

Restructuring Resources for High-Performing
Schools: A Primer for State Policymakers

Karen Hawley Miles,
Karen Baroody, and Elliot Regenstein
Education Resource
June 2011