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Talking about ‘Fair Student Funding’

A few weeks ago, ERS brought together 14 districts that are either exploring or doing some kind of fair student funding. Hosted in Baltimore, with funding from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the meeting served as an opportunity to openly review the hard process of making big changes in school funding.

There are a lot of different names associated with this concept of how school systems fund schools: “Fair Student Funding,” “Weighted Student Funding,” “Student-Based Budgeting,” “Back-Pack Budgeting,” to name a few. And there are a lot of different interpretations about what a system like this looks like. This summit was the opportunity for districts to learn from each others’ experience about the challenges and successes that come from this kind of work.

Why are these and other school systems implementing these new funding systems?
There are several reasons districts report efforts to move into new funding systems for their schools. They include:

  • EQUITY: Students are funded equitably regardless of which school they attend.
  • SCHOOL EMPOWERMENT: Schools have both the autonomy and the responsibility to design their schools to best meet their student needs.
  • INNOVATION: Principals have the freedom to organize their school in whatever way they believe will best serve their students.
  • ACCOUNTABILITY: Every school controls its own budget and school leaders are responsible for resource decisions and related outcomes.
  • TRANSPARENCY: A Fair Student Funding formula makes it clear to all relevant stakeholders how much money schools receive and how the allocation process works.

A Silver Bullet?
There weren’t any definitive answers that came out of the summit, but there was a clear consensus that school funding is a crucial component for transforming education. It’s not easy, but more and more districts are willing to radically change the way they do it.

Summit Results Coming Soon.
Even without definitive answers there were many valuable lessons shared. Conference proceedings will be published soon. I’ll be sure to post here when they’re available.


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