STUDY OF THE FINANCING OF PUBLIC SCHOOLS
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10:08 AM -- CEPA Report
Mark Fermanich and Kelly Hupfeld presented their report on student-centered funding (Attachment D). She noted that the final report will be issued in August. Ms. Hupfeld provided an overview of the report, and the questions that the paper attempted to address. She also explained the definition of student-center funding, and noted the different terms used for this approach. She stated that student-centered funding contains three main tenets. She continued by discussing the current school finance system in Colorado, which allows for limited discretion or customization by the districts.
Ms. Hupfeld discussed the School Finance Redesign Project and explained the core research of the Project. She reviewed the recommendations that came from the project. She stressed the importance of a state school financing system that is designed for continuous improvement and that bases accountability on performance. She also discussed the recommendations from the National Working Group on Student Learning. Representative Massey asked if the recommendations considered the unfunded mandates from the federal government. She noted the project looked at conflicting mandates instead of unfunded mandates.
Dr. Fermanich continued the presentation by discussing specifics of Colorado's Public School Financing Act of 1994, which he noted predates No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and Colorado's P-20 alignment movement. He reviewed the components in total program funding in Colorado, noting the state and local shares. He shared how Colorado's financing system measures up with a student-centered funding model. He noted that, in Colorado, the formula funding does not follow students to school, and the issues that arise with equity within Colorado's current formula.
Dr. Fermanich continued his presentation, discussing the components of data systems that link funding to student outcomes. He compared those components with Colorado's current data system. He also discussed how a student-centered funding model can provide support for innovation and experimentation, and discussed the need for flexibility of Colorado's funding system to allow for innovation and experimentation. He noted ways to increase flexibility in school funding allocations through school-wide programs and the federal Ed Flex program.
Dr. Fermanich discussed the need for accountability for continuous performance improvement in a student-centered funding model. He noted that implementing this kind of accountability system requires support for capacity building by states and districts, in addition to incentives for experimentation. He reviewed system equity and Edweek's Quality Countsranking. Representative Merrifield asked how the rankings were determined. Dr. Fermanich explained how the rankings were derived based on four different statistics. He noted that the state ranks 29th in the relationship between property wealth and district spending.
Dr. Fermanich reviewed Colorado's ranking for system adequacy in the Quality Countssurvey. He noted that Colorado ranks 40th in per pupil expenditures adjusted for cost and in the percent of state and local resources that are dedicated to education spending. Senator Romer discussed the relation to underfunded states and the disparity of achievement between students from high and low income households. Dr. Fermanich responded to Senator Romer's comments. Representative Scanlan asked Dr. Fermanich to explain how Quality Counts adjusted for cost differences when ranking per pupil expenditures. He explained that it adjusts for varying costs of living in states.
Senator Johnston asked if the report looked at the New Orleans model of school financing, and whether it is best to put most of the funding to the school, or to keep a balance between schools and districts. Dr. Fermanich stated that he would not make that specific of a recommendation, but noted that most schools in this model have control of about 50 percent of the funding. Dr. Fermanich continued his presentation, discussing how Colorado's financing system measures up to meeting system adequacy.
Ms. Hupfeld provided specific examples of districts that have implemented student-centered funding. She reviewed the New York City model, noting that the district is currently transitioning to its model. She explained that each school receives a base allocation per student, additional weights for need factors, and additional funds for school characteristics (i.e., CTE program, magnet, special education, school size). Ms. Hupfeld responded to questions from the committee regarding the New York City model.
Ms. Hupfeld continued to respond to questions from the committee members. She reviewed Houston's weighted student formula, noting the specific weights used there. She noted that Edmonton has the most complex weighted student funding, which includes eight levels of funding. She explained Edmonton's design parameters for its funding model. Dr. Fermanich noted other research on student-centered funding. He also discussed considerations for the implementation and system design of a student-centered funding system. He noted school districts' experiences in Washington state and San Francisco.
Dr. Fermanich discussed the issue of decentralizing authority in student-centered funding models, noting that it varies depending on district policies, system design, support infrastructure, federal, state, and local regulations, and collective bargaining agreements. He noted possible organizational and student outcomes that can result when student-centered funding is implemented. Ms. Hupfeld discussed challenges to considered when implementing such a system.
Ms. Hupfeld concluded the presentation with the report's recommendations for Colorado, specifically that the state should incentivize school districts to change to this funding model, not mandate student-based budgeting. Ms. Hupfeld and Dr. Fermanich responded to questions from the committee.