WEIGHTED STUDENT FORMULA

Prepared by Frost, Davis, & Donnelly

The Governor’s staff and the Department of Finance held their second meeting of stakeholders on the weighted student formula.  The focus of the meeting was the bore in on the key issues surrounding implementation of a WSF.  The large group was broken into 4 small groups designed to discuss and comment on the key issues with the following issues:  1) Base Grants, 2) Specific Weights, 3) Accountability, and 4) Implementation.  All of the feedback was brought back to the large group.  Below are some of the discussion points that were raised.

Base Grants

The base grant should be predicated on a level of funding that will meet the needs of all pupils and should at least be to the 2007-08 funding level.

The base grant funding level should be predicated on research in order to target specific goals for future funding.

Specific grade span allocations need to be established for K-3, 4-6, 7-8, and 9-12.

Special education encroachment on base the base funding of a school district is a significant concern and as a result should be considered as a weight.

In any discussion of funding adequacy, it must be determined whether Proposition 98 is a help or a hindrance toward achieving that goal.

Weights

The administration should consider a larger number of weights beyond EL and Free & Reduced Lunch.

In establishing weights, any decision should be based on established research.

The use of a concentration factor raises a number of concerns and those issues must be carefully considered before any implementation.

Having a weight for English language learners must be fully integrated with reform of the reclassification process so that the weight does not create a disincentive for reclassification.

Transportation and special education should be considered as weights.

Career technical education should be considered in some form – either as a specific weight or as an add-on to the 9-12 grade span allocation.

Weights need to be considered as allocations for “exceptional student needs” and must be closely tied to the adequacy of the base grant.

Accountability

As a part of any WSF implementation there must be a move from compliance to outcome-based accountability.

Accountability must be grounded in a basic goal of student achievement and should be consistent with the common core standards.

A philosophy of “trust but verify” must be used that gives districts latitude on local spending but with defined outcomes on student performance.

There must be a single reporting system for academic outcomes and school district transparency on where funds are being utilized.

Any use of interventions must be supportive of helping a district or school improve student achievement and should not be punitive.

Implementation

But the highest priority on funding the base grants and getting to the 2007-08 level.

State must ensure that there is the technical capacity for a new monitoring system for how districts will be funded.

An implementation system must ensure that the gap between winners and losers is as narrow as possible.

Before implementation occurs, target levels for funding and a timeline for implementation needs to be established.

A “hold harmless” approach must be established and clearly defined.

Accountability and funding allocations must be determined at the same time.

Summary

The final meeting for stakeholders will be on Friday November 30.  That meeting is designed  to be a wrap-up session but based on the disparate issues that have been raised and the lack of consensus that ahs occurred to date it is not clear how the last meeting will be structured or whether there will be an effort to try to reach consensus.  There are significant disagreements or a lack of consensus on the base funding levels, on whether there should be a concentration grant, how many weights should be used, what level of accountability should be implemented and what it should include – to raise only a few of the contentious issues that have been raised.

It is also not clear whether there will be any follow up with stakeholders prior to the administration rolling out a specific proposal in January.  We will let you know how the next meeting goes.