As attention shifts to how districts allocate resources to schools, student-weighted allocation has emerged as an alternative to traditional staff-based allocation policies. Student-weighted allocation uses student need, rather than staff placement, as the building block of school budgeting. This article examines how the shift to student-weighted allocation affected the pattern of resource distribution within two districts: the Houston Independent School District and Cincinnati Public Schools.
This study provides evidence that student-weighted allocation can be a means toward greater resource equity among schools within districts. Resource equity is defined here in per-pupil needs-weighted fiscal terms. However, we also conclude that moving to student-weighted allocation by itself does not guarantee equity gains and that, for a variety of reasons, the equity gains realized in these districts might not be replicated elsewhere.
The analysis suggests that important details help determine financial equity gains: (a) the portion of total funds included in school budgets, (b) key elements of the allocation formula, and (c) prior district spending patterns. We caution readers on the inherent limits of attaining fiscal equity.