School Funding Formula: Fair or Flawed?

Tuesday, June 08, 2010


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Portsmouth and other East Bay schools won’t be losers in new education funding system proposed by the state—they will be devastated, according to John McDaid, a blogger who covers education issues closely.

Portsmouth, for one, would lose about $260,000 a year for a decade, and, because of the property tax cap, would not be able to raise taxes to make up the difference, according to McDaid. “Obviously, that would be devastating for our schools,” McDaid said.  

He said no one was quite sure what would be cut. He said state mandates limited the school from touching basic education programs, leaving extracurricular activities, sports, and music vulnerable.

Gist: System Would Be Fair

However, Education Commissioner Deborah Gist told GoLocalProv that the new system was a fair way of distributing money. “A transparent, consistent education funding formula will allow us to ensure that student achievement remains the top priority for our state and for our school districts,” Gist said. “The funding-formula proposal before the General Assembly allocates resources fairly.”

But McDaid said it is based on the false premise that the current total amount of state education aid, $860 million, is enough. “The pie is not big enough and, as long as that pie doesn’t get any bigger, out here in the East Bay, we’re going to be fighting over the crumbs,” McDaid said.

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Some Districts May Be Over-Funded

Current funding is not based on enrollment numbers, according to Elliot Krieger, a spokesman for Gist. As a result, he said some districts have been getting more money than they need.

“There have been many shifts in student enrollment during the 15 or so years that we have been without a funding formula,” Krieger said. “At present, some districts are receiving more aid than they need to educate their students, based on current student enrollments, and some districts are receiving less than they need.”

The formula assumes it will cost about $8,295 to educate most students. “This funding formula is based on the principle that the money will follow the student,” Gist said. “It is a dynamic system that will redistribute allocations as enrollment patterns change.”

But the proposed per-pupil rate is too low, according to McDaid, who cited a 2007 study by the Legislature that settled on $10,600 as the right number.

The per-pupil rate for students in the free and reduced lunch program is higher, at $11,600, but McDaid said it was an unsophisticated way of accounting for the needs of low-income students. “The free and reduced price is basically a blunt instrument,” he said.


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