Education Week last week ran with a story touting renewed local interest in the weighted student funding concept. Quoted in the story, the Center on Reinventing Public Education’s Dr. Marguerite Roza noted that while current budget pressures have sparked interest, the policy offers some real benefits:
Weighted student funding can also help promote nonstandard staffing models that are growing in popularity, Ms. Roza said, offering as an example the Rocketship Education model. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based charter management organization combines online learning with small-group instruction. Standard funding formulas that provide a teacher for a certain number of students don’t allow for that kind of flexibility, she said.
Also quoted in the Education Week story, another nationally-renowned academic expert on school finance is less high on weighted student funding:
In actuality, Mr. Hanushek said, principals are constrained by collective bargaining agreements and state, federal, and local regulations. “Maybe they can hire another remedial-reading teacher instead of an art teacher,” he said in an interview. “But the flexibility school principals have is pretty marginal.” And the formulas aren’t connected to drivers of student performance, he argued. In his commentary, he said that it would be better for states and districts to use a funding mechanism that explicitly gives financial rewards for achievement.
To me, there are elements of good ideas in both: Why can’t we focus on ensuring that money follows the student and that schools and districts are rewarded based on successful performance? After all, did you know Roza and Hanushek are both stars of a recent 2-minute Education Policy Center video calling for changes to Colorado’s K-12 funding system?
If you want to go more in depth, you really ought to read the new Education Policy Center report on Online Course-Level Funding to see some specific solutions that would help fund student learning success in Colorado.