Review Pans Graphics-Laden Brief on Design of State School Finance Systems

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Key New NEPC Review Takeaway: Report lacks any understanding of education costs or the provision of equal educational opportunity.

Student-Centered State Funding: A How-to Guide for State Policymakers, published by the Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd), attempts to describe a school funding approach to state policymakers. Specifically, it purports to explain how to design a state school funding system whereby all state and local dollars may flow freely, by parental choice, following children to local district, charter or private schools.

These “money follows the child” approaches provide a system that eases the process of funding an assortment of school choice programs. The graphics-laden brief focuses on the task of setting specific funding levels for each child.

Bruce D. Baker, a Professor at Rutgers, reviewed the brief and found three major shortcomings. First, it advances the false dichotomy between supporting students and supporting their schools. It advocates for state and district school finance systems to focus on funding the child, not funding the essential institutions that serve those children. This dichotomy wrongly promotes the idea that there is no benefit to children of equitably and adequately financing educational institutions.

Second, the brief is based on overly simplistic, frequently misrepresented, and often outright incorrect versions of the status quo, including overbroad mischaracterizations of how schools are currently financed.

Third, the details of the brief’s proposals and espoused benefits are entirely speculative and unsubstantiated, in some cases simply made up and in other cases supported only by insular and circular self-citation to previous work that itself cites no strong empirical support.

For these reasons and others, Professor Baker concludes, the brief is of absolutely no value to policymakers for informing the design of state school finance systems or school district resource allocation formulas.

Find the review, by Bruce D. Baker, at:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/review-student-centered-funding

Find Student-Centered State Funding: A How-to Guide for State Policymakers, published by the Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd), at:
http://www.excelined.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/ExcelinEd.StudentCenteredStateFunding.AHowToGuideForStates.Nov2017-1.pdf

Find Documents:
Press Release: nepc.info/node/8992
NEPC Review: nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/review-student-centered-funding
Report Reviewed: http://www.excelined.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/ExcelinEd.StudentCenteredStateFunding.AHowToGuideForStates.Nov2017-1.pdf

NEPC Reviews (http://thinktankreview.org) provide the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. NEPC Reviews are made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice: http://www.greatlakescenter.org

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: http://nepc.colorado.edu

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William J. Mathis

Bruce D. Baker
Rutgers University
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