By studying examples of effective school funding redesign at some state and local levels in varying states, the report’s authors say there are four design principles that can help ensure a student-centered finance system that will allow dollars to follow students to high-quality online and blended learning options, create mechanisms for ensuring quality, and foster educational innovation.
Funding should reflect individual student needs by “attaching ‘weights’ to students funding amounts based on factors that affect the cost of educating certain students, such as poverty, special needs, ELL/LEP, or gifted,” the report states.
One state with a weighted school funding (WSF) model is Hawaii, which implemented a WSF formula beginning in 2006. According to the report, the state’s formula allocates a specific dollar amount for each student enrolled based on “characteristics that impact their learning and achievement.” These characteristics and their weights are determined annually by the Committee on Weights, a group made up of educators and community members.
Other areas with WSF models include Utah, Colorado, Georgia, San Francisco, New York City, Baltimore, and Boston.
A flexible finance system does not restrict funds or designate them for particular uses such as salaries, note the report’s authors, and thus creates a greater school-level autonomy.
For example, in the 1990s Cincinnati awarded flexibility to high-performing schools and Boston became the “best-run urban district in the country” with a similar approach, notes the report.
Building on these lessons, three dozen urban districts joined the CRPE Portfolio District Network, where flexibility is one of the seven design principles.
The principle of portability ensures that dollars can follow students to the school or course that best suits their individual needs—including fractional funding for full-time or part-time options.