Buck Stops with Students

See all posts

The status quo method of distributing funds among schools is the centralized or ?staff-based? budgeting process, but it's a process a lot of people aren't too happy about. Some argue that the system is inherently unfair. For instance, high poverty schools lose teachers faster than more affluent schools. Consequently, the amount of money going to high poverty schools is much less because teacher turnover is higher, meaning the school faculty is younger?and a lot cheaper. Thus, with the same number of teachers, there is wide variance in the amount spent on staffing.

The Seattle School District is experimenting with a new funding model known as the ?weighted? funding model. Under the new ?weighted? system, money doesn't just follow the student, but different students have different ?costs?. It's much like the weighted system applied for special education students: the higher the classification of special education need, the more money a school will get for the child--only in Seattle every child has a different price tag, so to speak. An elementary school gets $2,927.23 for every regular student in grades 1-3; for a pupil who needs bilingual education services it gets 27% more; for a student living in poverty it gets about 10% more.

The unions, and some administrators, don?t like the idea, arguing that the new system does not ensure that a school will be fully staffed. ?Where it [weighted funding] doesn?t work for me is what if the principal at the end of the day doesn?t have money for a full-time reading teacher- just three-fourths of one- and they can?t hire the kind of quality they need,? said Eric J. Smith, a former superintendent of schools in Charlotte, North Carolina.