As the only state without a funding formula, there is certainly something to be said for putting something in place so that cities and towns can have some ability to forecast what they’re going to have for education spending. That being said, I’m sure I’m not alone in having mixed feelings when I hear such things as this:
Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist…points out that the current distribution is unfair, insofar as it gives some school districts too much, and other districts too little…“What I want to see is a system that in every respect, whether it’s finance policy or curriculum or professional development, is built around what students need and not what adults need or are used to having,” said Gist, who became commissioner last summer.
“This is going to require that some people step up and have the political courage to say to their communities, ‘We will have to make some changes … and let’s look at why that is the case.’ ”
First part is good, second part makes me wary. Adding to my wariness is the involvement of Brown University–“Kenneth Wong, a Brown education professor, and two of his graduate students”–in the formulating (yes, I’ll admit this is probably biased on my part, but there you go–so convince me).
Unlike previous approaches that added more money on top of what districts were already spending, the new proposal starts from scratch.
Using a “market-basket approach,” the Brown team members added what they considered the most important elements for a quality education: the salaries of key personnel such as teachers, teacher assistants, guidance counselors, nurses, librarians, principals and assistant principals; books and other instructional materials; training for teachers; and a portion of teacher-pension costs.
Those elements form the basis of what the team calls a “foundation” formula, resulting in a cost of $8,200 per student per year. That figure could change if elements are added or subtracted.
The state average per-pupil cost in 2009 was $7,246, but that figure does not include $78 million the state contributes to teacher pensions, a cost included in the $8,200 figure.
Districts with large numbers of poor children would receive more money to address their higher levels of need. Education officials say the poverty level is also a measure for other student needs, such as special education and English classes for non-native speakers.
Sounds sorta redistributive, doesn’t it? Under this formula, I’m guessing most of us will, and should, take an even keener interest in the urban schools. Looks like more of our money will be heading there.