NEPC Review: Weighted School Funding for California
A new policy brief from the Reason Foundation examines California Governor Jerry Brown’s school finance reform plan. It touts the benefits of the reform and makes suggestions for improvements, some of which are based on a recently adopted school finance bill in Colorado. The Reason report asserts that Brown’s proposed plan is better than the status quo, arguing that it has the potential to more equitably distribute funding across local public school districts. Yet no data are presented or evaluated to support these claims. The bulk of Reason’s report is dedicated to the claim that Brown’s reforms should be expanded to include “money follows the child.” That is, weighted student funding should be distributed directly to the school, and the principal should be provided autonomy in the way the money is spent. While the claim is made that such a system is more equitable, efficient and transparent, little evidence is available or presented that supports this claim. The report instead offers a highly filtered summary of existing literature on the efficacy of weighted student funding for improving educational equity or school quality. While many would concur that California’s funding system is in disrepair, the Reason report offers little precise or valuable guidance for policymakers.