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The 'If Bernie Madoff Worked in School Finance' Award
To ConnCAN for Spend Smart: Fix Our Broken School Funding
This report from a Connecticut-based education advocacy group aims to Fix Our Broken School Funding System with a reverse Robin Hood take-from-the-poor approach nicely wrapped in a pious package of verbiage designed to hide its true effects. In truth, few areas of school policy are as ripe for legitimate critique as the way states allocate funds to schools. A disconcerting level of arbitrariness and inadequacy often marks these funding formulas. Yet this report doesn’t make use of well-established research conventions (adequacy or equity studies), or for that matter any sensible approach for determining if a formula is in fact broken. Instead, it promotes a “money follows the child” funding system that our reviewer points out would have the effect of making the system even more inequitable by shifting funding away from students learning English and those in poverty.
The report’s empty claims are perfectly combined with its evidentiary barrenness. Consider, for instance, the genealogy of the report’s claim that the current formula provides low-income children with only an additional 11.5% of funding. That claim is based on a previous ConnCAN report, which refers readers to information in a footnote, which then refers readers to that report’s appendix. But pity the intrepid reader who makes it that far; the appendix provides no justification or further reference to the phantom 11.5% figure. Our reviewer pointed to similar evidentiary black holes regarding the report’s claims about charter school funding and performance. And yet another instance of fantasy numbers comes from the report’s recommended removal of funding for English language learners based on the contention that these children have already been counted as low-income children. There is no compelling evidence to this effect in the literature – nor is there any in the report.