How States Can Better Support Districts

Karen Hawley Miles moderates a panel on this topic at the Policy Innovators in Education (PIE) Network Summit

“Advocates will always need to push for adequate funding in schools— especially those schools that serve children with greater needs. But it’s just as important to shape the policies that enable effective use of that funding. 
After all, if a school system gets more dollars but cannot organize its resources in high-performing ways or purchase the time, talent, or technology it needs, what’s the point?”

That’s the argument that ERS Executive Director Karen Hawley Miles made when she moderated a panel in Chicago at the 2014 Policy Innovators in Education (PIE) Network Summit. The conference draws education advocates from across the country to learn from each other and from policy groups and reform support organizations such as ERS.

Miles shared the stage for the panel, titled “Using the Budget Process to Advance Transformation,” with Clara Keith, the associate superintendent for Race to the Top at the Georgia Department of Education; Sarah Lillis, director of the EdVoice Institute in California; and Bryan Hassell, co-director of Public Impact in North Carolina.

Bryan Hassell and Karen Hawley Miles during the panel discussion.

Each member of the panel discussed recent examples of state-level policy changes that meaningfully impacted resource use in school districts, ranging from teacher compensation to strategic school design. Some themes emerged:

  • As money trickles back into school budgets, it’s important to seize the moment to re-evaluate old policies and programs, not just automatically restore funding to areas that have been cut
  • It’s crucial to give school districts flexibility in order to encourage the innovation that leads to improved student performance. But flexibility is not enough—districts may need incentives and support from the state as well.

Karen's one-page memo “Promoting Transformation Through State Budget Processes and Policy” summarizes the main themes of the panel, highlighting the three key ways that states can help districts make necessary change, and sample policies that advocates can consider in their state.