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The Time Machine Award

Reason Foundation for NEPC Review: Weighted Student Formula Yearbook 2009 (April 2009)

This Reason Foundation report has multiple features that make it an award winner. It engages in definitional acrobatics, pouring a kitchen sink’s worth of assorted reforms into a vessel it calls Weighted Student Formula (WSF) reforms. And, in a truly breathtaking innovation, the report enters its time machine and attributes positive reform outcomes to policy changes that had not yet been implemented. In broad terms, WSF reforms involve linking funding to each student, with that funding calculated as the student’s base allocation and any additional funds for special needs, economic deprivation or other reasons. The Reason report somehow manages to squeeze into this WSF concept three additional reforms: (a) site-based management; (b) site-based budgeting; and (c) school choice. The expert third party reviewer said this about the Reason “umbrella labeled as WSF:” “[it] deceptively suggests that all related policies are necessarily good—even going so far as to credit those policies for improvements that took place before the policies were implemented.” “The report then irresponsibly recommends untested, cherry picked policy elements, some of which may substantially undermine equity for children in the highest-need schools within major urban districts.” For example, the plan suggests that extra funds for economically deprived students be eliminated but that added money should be given to gifted and talented students. The report also ignores a large body of relevant literature on within-district equity and school site management in its uncritical effort to find support for the foundation’s ideological policy preferences.