BOULDER, CO (January 19, 2023) – In this month’s episode of NEPC Talks Education, Christopher Saldaña discusses recent developments in K-12 school finance policy and practice with David Knight, University of Washington College of Education professor of education finance and policy.
Knight notes that in response to the pandemic, federal policymakers allocated close to $200 billion for K-12 public education, in contrast to more typical federal funding of about $60 billion or 9% of total funding for schools. He argues that policymakers will need to do more than distribute these funds. They also need to ensure that dollars are allocated equitably, spent effectively, and that they are adequate to the meet the ongoing needs of students. In Knight’s view, policymakers were wise to distribute federal funds using the same formula used for distributing Title I funds because it allocates funding based on the percentage of low-income students in a district. However, he argues that the requirement that school districts spend all federal funds by the end of the 2024 could place unneeded stress on district finances. The spending deadline will create the same sort of destructive “fiscal cliff” (i.e., a sudden loss of revenue caused by the expiration of federal funding) that occurred when federal stimulus funds that were distributed in response to the 2008 financial crisis ended.
In general Knight believes that funding policy should be designed to provide adequate funding and the equitable distribution of public funds. In order to best achieve these goals, Knight suggests that prior to setting dollar amounts to implement favored policies, policymakers should first focus on ensuring that stakeholders agree on the outcomes desired and only then determine the funding necessary to achieve those outcomes. Knight further argues that policymakers must assess the full cost of providing an adequate education and determine how that cost differs across school districts. Knight believes this approach will provide politicians, school leaders, and stakeholders with clear objectives and help ensure adequate funding, the equitable distribution of funds, and their effective use.
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