At-Risk Funding: School Leaders' Perspective
STUDY OF THE FINANCING OF PUBLIC SCHOOLS
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01:44 PM -- At-Risk Funding: School Leaders' Perspective
Jim Griffin, representing the Colorado League of Charter Schools, raised three main points: (1): is at-risk the right vehicle; two: is free lunch right proxy; and (3): is the free lunch proxy being used right. He presented concerns that the school finance formula is funding districts not schools. He asked, if that is not the case, then is there an issue of equity for charter schools. He stated that charter school funding could benefit from having its own formula, instead of a derivative of its school district's funding. He presented considerations for the committee regarding creating a formula that takes into account all funding streams. He discussed the challenges with using free and reduced lunch for at-risk identification. He explained that because only 28 percent of charter schools have facilities that meet federal standards for the free and reduced lunch program their ability to count and track their free and reduced lunch-eligible families is compromised. He noted legislation that passed this year that will change some of the underreporting that occurs at charter schools.
Scott Murphy, representing Littleton Public Schools, shared his experience putting together the current school finance formula, which began in 1992, and resulted in the Public School Financing Act of 1994. He explained that a poverty index alone does not capture all of the students, specifically noting that it does not include students with disabilities. He shared some of the tools the district uses to reach at-risk students. He recommended that the at-risk funding be outcomes-based.
Representative Merrifield asked Mr. Murphy his opinion of weighted student funding. Mr. Murphy replied that he did not think weighted student funding would be helpful for his school district because of the lack of data to know where to focus the money. Senator King clarified that the earlier recommendation was not to create a mandate but an incentive to use student-based budgeting. He asked Mr. Murphy what would motivate his staff to improve achievement among students. Mr. Murphy replied that teachers and districts do not work from that perspective, they prefer to have data.
Representative Middleton asked the panelists to address which changes they would advocate for in the at-risk definition. Mr. Griffin responded by discussing the previous presentation regarding the lack of tracking of state at-risk funds (see Mr. Silverstein's presentation). Mr. Murphy discussed incentives, and how that might work in a school district and how schools currently find funding to support programs like those that serve at-risk students. Committee discussion ensued about incentives and funding for at-risk programs. He addressed concerns about continuing funding for incentive-based funding.
Mr. Griffin responded to comments by Representative Stephens, discussing support for a funding formula that captures at-risk students based on poverty, incarceration, and other factors to include specialized populations that would benefit from at-risk funding. Senator Johnston asked the panelists about at-risk factor in comparison to the other factors, noting the at-risk factor constitutes 25 percent of the formula funding. Mr. Murphy responded to the question, explaining he does not know the numeric value for at-risk students. Representative Middleton asked Mr. Murphy to share his perspective as one of the people who worked to create the 1994 formula. Committee discussion ensued about how to put factors at work when the money is limited.
Senator Romer commented on the current state of public school funding in Colorado and the need for a ballot measure to fix the long-term budget issues. He discussed the challenges minority students face in achieving in school. Mr. Murphy responded to Senator Romer's comments. Representative Middleton asked if Mr. Griffin wanted to comment on averaging funding. He reiterated his belief that the state funds districts not schools. Senator King commented on charter school funding, asking Mr. Griffin which method of charter school funding he prefers. Mr. Griffin replied that he does not have a preference and commented on how the two funding systems work, noting the capital construction challenges in the funding.