NEPC Review: Student-Centered State Funding: A How-to Guide for State Policymakers (The Foundation for Excellence in Education, November 2017)

The policy brief Student Centered State Funding: A How-to Guide for State Policymakers attempts to illustrate and explain to state policymakers how to design a state school funding system whereby all state and local dollars may flow freely, by parental choice, following children to local district, charter or private schools. In particular, the brief seeks to provide state policy guidance on setting specific funding levels for each child. These “money follows the child” approaches provide a system that eases the process of funding an assortment of school choice programs. Unfortunately, this colorful multi-page infographic suffers from three major shortcomings as a guide for state policymakers: First, the brief advances the false dichotomy that advocates for state and district school finance systems to focus on funding the child, not funding the essential institutions that serve those children. This dichotomy wrongly promotes the idea that there is no benefit to children of equitably and adequately financing educational institutions. Second, the brief is based on overly simplistic, frequently misrepresented, and often outright incorrect versions of the status quo, including overbroad mischaracterizations of how schools are currently financed. Third, the details of the brief’s proposals and espoused benefits are entirely speculative and unsubstantiated, in some cases simply made up and in other cases supported only by insular and circular self-citation to previous work that itself cites no strong empirical support. For these reasons and others, the report is of absolutely no value to policymakers for informing the design of state school finance systems or school district resource allocation formulas.

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