Defining adequate funding is not enough

The last article in the NPR series on School Funding, Is There A Better Way To Pay For America’s Schools?, the authors introduced the “adequacy study,” where states can hire consultants to study value for money in their state schools. These studies involve collection and analysis of various classes of data (by hired consultants), with the attempt to understand how best to support the range of student needs.

Our state of California has paid for two such studies, both back in 2007. It’s not surprising to learn that both studies conclude that CA needs to increase their per-student funding, and that neither study has had any portions of the recommendations implemented. Specifically:

Aligning School Finance with Academic Standards

  • Allocate revenue based on district need, but not in a way that prompts districts to game the system
  • The increase in funding should be implemented gradually
  • The study did not recommend educational strategies, however did present very specific funding formulas

Efficiency and Adequacy in California School Finance: A Professional Judgment Approach

  • Reduce class sizes, a longer school day, a longer school year, more specialists to provide services for special needs students, and increased and higher quality professional development for teachers
  • Policymakers should develop a funding formula employing the special needs indices the authors use, as opposed to the current system (remove current “categorical spending” model)
  • More research is needed on district level expenditures

Both of these studies were done in the context of No Child Left Behind. It would certainly be interesting to have an adequacy study conducted in our current education context of Local Control Funding Formula and Every Student Succeeds Act. These studies, however, are only useful when the recommendations are seriously considered and implemented.

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