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ERS Expertise Sought on Weighted Student Funding

Boston City Council Takes Time to Review First Year of WSF

As Boston Public Schools wraps up its first year of weighted student funding (WSF) and looks to apply lessons learned to improve its funding formula in year two, the Boston City Council met on Monday to better understand the issues surrounding WSF both in the context of Boston and nationally. They invited ERS Director Jonathan Travers to join the discussion.

After a brief background from Jonathan on the main decision points a district faces in establishing funding WSF system, the City Council members asked questions about the implications of Boston’s particular formula. The discussion raised some interesting issues including:

  • How do small schools fare under WSF? Boston has a significant number of small schools – some are the result of space constraints while others are due to under-enrollment. Although BPS instituted a foundation weight in its WSF system to try to ensure the viability of small schools, there was concern that these small schools were still struggling with their smaller budgets and were under tremendous pressure to expand or attract a needier student population to increase funding levels.
  • What is the impact of WSF on student outcomes? In the first year of WSF, the schools that experienced a large drop in funding – because they were previously “highly-funded” relative to other schools that served similar populations – were given a “soft landing” which limited their “loss amount” to mitigate drastic cuts. However, as this transitional funding goes away in the next few years, there is concern that these previously “highly-funded” schools will lose the academic gains they have made.

ERS appreciated being included in the discussions with the Boston City Council and Boston Public Schools. These kinds of public discussions with a diverse group of stakeholders are critical in ensuring that WSF is implemented well across the district. The BPS CFO, John McDonough, and his team should be applauded for taking such a thoughtful and reflective approach as they continue to improve the district’s school funding system.

For more information, see the Weighted Student Funding Overview, which Jonathan presented at the meeting:

 

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