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The Big Shift to Funding Student Needs

During the panel for Weighted Student Funding as a Path to Equity at the Council for Great City Schools Conference, held in Boston on October 28th, John McDonough, the Chief Financial Officer of Boston Public Schools (BPS), made the following statement: “Boston Public Schools is no longer funding adults, buildings, schools, or programs – BPS funds students and student needs.”  While seeming simple and logical, this statement represents a significant shift in thinking around funding education.

For years BPS funded schools by allocating positions; maintaining school staffing levels from prior years with little regard for changes in student needs.  With the new weighted student funding formula, BPS students with similar characteristics receive the same level of resources regardless of where they live or which school they attend.  Along with helping to ensure resources are allocated equitably, this transition to weighted student funding has also dramatically increased transparency.  Under the new model, any parent, student, or community member can calculate the level of resources at any BPS school based on the enrollment and BPS’ weighted student funding formula.  This is a significant shift for the district away from that paradigm which funded people and infrastructure and perpetuated inequity and lacked transparency. 

While we realize implementing an equitable funding system is no easy task – there are numerous barriers and obstacles – it is time to change the conversation from whether districts can implement equitable funding systems, to how they can implement them.  By funding student needs instead of fixed assets such as people, programs, and buildings, we are allocating our shrinking pool of resources more equitably and efficiently, both of which are good for our bottom line…student achievement. 

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