Thursday, July 01, 2010

The Emperor's New Funding Formula

RI's new education funding formula is an improvement, but that's not saying much. Imagine trying to maintain your household budget by annually incrementing what you spent in each budget line in 1995, and you'd get an idea of how screwed up things here were. So it is better, finally, and that's something.

But nationally, or internationally, it is no big deal. How it rated mention on the National Journal blog, I don't know, but it does provide a good check on who the true believers and inside insiders are based on who rouses themselves or their PR staffers to praise Ms. Gist's charming new outfit.

Bruce Baker is not charmed or amused:

Quite honestly, Ms. Gist and the RI legislature may have been better off saying that the foundation level will be set at $8,295 because that’s how much we are willing to pay for – not this silly back of the napkin justification of the amount they were willing to pay for. That in mind, this foundation formula and its arbitrary weights – excuse me – weight – actually bring us backwards, not forwards in the school finance debate, making a mockery of “research” and its potential use for informing state school finance policy.

Good use of the Dumbest Stuff I Ever Read! tag. Gotta get me one of those.

1 comment:

Jason said...

There's a lot of good in the formula that Baker is overlooking, but he's quite right that a foundation formula with weights is really not all that different than what is out there.

As someone who worked on the formula, I'd say he missed the boat/was overly harsh about the New Hampshire/Vermont decision which is pretty straight forward.

I also think he places a ton of confidence in cost-function studies which are just the best-option in a scenario with enough data that is still quite flawed. RI doesn't have the variation to produce a good cost-function with only 36 districts and doesn't have the data right now to make some of the changes he's alluding to.

I am anxious to see Baker's further analysis in the future on the actual outcome of the formula, not just the language surrounding it. As you're already aware from the conversation here:, Baker is waiting to see how the whole thing actually works in the end, "Finally, I do hope that the end result of this formula is a more systematic delivery of additional resources to high need districts, schools and children. I’m less concerned with conceptual problems with the various components than I am with how it all comes together. Again, I’ll wait and see on that one, and test it out when I get a chance. But I’m skeptical."

I think RIDE would welcome the skepticism and love the push to do a better job. There's no doubt in my mind, based on some pretty straight forward analysis, that this formula significantly improves the way the state is driving money towards at-risk kids.

It's funny, the Ajello bill that many of the folks who were unhappy with the RIDE bill wanted to push for, would have actually sent a lower percentage of the total funding in the state to the four highest poverty and highest ELL districts in the state. Those differences are masked when you call for significantly more money to be poured into the system overall.