Research Paper Highlights Need for District Budget Transparency
Ed Trust-West has released a report (Tipping the Scales Towards Equity) calling for changes to Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed school finance reform package. While voicing support for the reform’s employment of a Weighted Student formula, the report questions whether the Governor’s proposal contains sufficient provisions to ensure that funds designated for high need students are subsequently passed on to these students by district offices. As a potential solution, the report calls for reform that (a) places a burden on districts to justify their flexible use of categorical funds and (b) imposes mechanisms that would make district accounting practices more transparent to the public.
than the Math: Realities of a Weighted Student Formula in Twin
SSFR team member, Cristin Quealy, recently shared her perspective on the development and implementation of a school-level weighted student funding formula in the Silicon Valley Community Foundation blog, Thoughts on Public Education (Op-Ed). Drawing on her first-hand experiences and insight from working with Twin Rivers to implement SSFR, Cristin describes how the district is moving toward greater equity, transparency, autonomy, and accountability.
Forum Highlights SSFR in Twin Rivers USD
Mahala Archer (SSFR project manager in Twin Rivers USD) was interviewed on KQED’s Forum along with Michael Kirst, President of the State Board of Education and Eric Heins, Vice President of the California Teachers Association. The segment focused on Governor Brown’s proposal to shift much of the control over education funds from the state to districts. Rather than allocating money to districts through categorical programs, Brown is proposing a weighted pupil funding system through which the state would allocate money based on districts’ populations of low-income and English Learner students.
Archer discussed how the SSFR initiative in Twin Rivers USD is applying a similar weighted pupil funding system at the district level. The district aims to increase efficiency, transparency, and equity in the use of funds by giving principals greater discretion over how to allocate resources in the manner best for their schools. According to Archer, nearly eighty percent of resources are now managed on site in SSFR pilot schools, compared to thirty five percent of resources they managed before the initiative was implemented. In accordance with this increase in autonomy, Archer emphasized that SSFR will strengthen school accountability for student outcomes.
The additional flexibility offered under the Governor’s proposal will make it easier for districts to implement and extend such needs-based funding approaches down to the school level, providing schools with more autonomy in how they meet the needs of the students they serve.
Listen to the program
Superintendent Discusses Labor Reforms
In an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times, Superintendent John Deasy outlines what he believes are vital changes that need to be made in the district’s labor contract, currently under negotiation. He discusses changes to teacher hiring, evaluation, tenure, compensation and dismissal policies, with the goal of retaining and rewarding excellent teachers and giving more flexibility and power to teachers and administrators to decide how to best serve their students. Deasy’s proposals to reform human resource management and increase school autonomy promote conditions under which the district could fully leverage the potential gains in equity and efficiency that SSFR aims to bring to school resource allocation.
Read the article
Rivers USD Featured on The California Report
The school finance reform effort currently underway in Twin Rivers USD – one of the SSFR partner districts – was recently covered in the Governing California series of The California Report. The reporter describes the frustrations and limitations faced by schools and districts due to the complex web of regulations that make up California’s education finance system. In the Twin Rivers pilot program, principals, teachers, and parents have significant power to decide how to allocate school resources, allowing them the freedom to build more coherent and effective programs for their students.*
While SSFR is directed at reforming the way school districts allocate resources internally, Assembly Bill 18 (AB18), sponsored by Assemblywoman Brownley, has been proposed to reform the state school finance system – the way the state allocates and distributes funds to schools. AB18 is designed to consolidate many categorical programs and simplify the way schools are being funded in California, and it is very consistent with the approach taken by SSFR on funding schools within local education agencies.
*You may note that the story incorrectly refers to Twin Rivers as “a guinea pig in education finance reform under a state pilot project.” The “state pilot project” mentioned is in fact the SSFR project, which is being funded by grants from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Institutes of Education Sciences, and the Ford Foundation.
Attends Equity and Excellence Commission
Jason Willis (CFO, Stockton Unified School District), a consultant to the SSFR project testified at a town hall meeting in San Jose, CA hosted by the U.S. Department of Education’s Equity and Excellence Commission . Members of the SSFR team were in attendance.
Established in August 2010, the Equity and Excellence Commission is charged with collecting public input and analyzing information about inequality of educational opportunities with an emphasis on finance systems. The commission will make recommendations for ways that school finance systems can be restructured and Federal policies can be made to reduce disparities in meaningful educational opportunity. The 27 commission members come from a variety of backgrounds, including education, civil rights, law, media, tax, nonprofit, government, and business.
Watch a video of the event.
in the Media
In Thoughts on Public Education, a blog sponsored by the Silicon Valley Education Foundation, John Fensterwald recently reported on SSFR. Numerous questions and comments from readers followed the post. Fensterwald subsequently invited Steve Jubb (Director of Innovation & District Redesign at Pivot Learning Partners) to further explain the initiative and to address some of the comments and questions posed by readers.