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Research Center on School Finance Created

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The University of Southern California has established a center for the study of "education productivity and finance."

The center's research will focus on the financial aspects of the various school reforms introduced since the mid-1980's, according to Allan Odden, a professor in the u.s.c. school of education.

"It's an area that everybody has just ignored," said Mr. Odden, a former president of the American Educational Finance Association who will serve as the center's director.

The center, which is called invest 21, has received initial funding from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and plans to produce and distribute 10 research papers over the next two years, Mr. Odden said.

Its first paper, likely to be released next fall, will be a school-finance "report card."

In a paper outlining the center's research agenda, center officials explain that the report will be "more than a compendium of statistics." In addition to compiling spending data from 50 states and the federal government, Mr. Odden said, the report card will provide analysis and a discussion of related issues.

Among other information, the report card will include an "analysis of the impact of new reform dollars on school-district spending patterns"; "a study of the success of fiscal-accountability measures"; and figures "relating spending increases to assessments of student performance where possible."

The goal of the report card, states the group's research agenda, is ''to inform policymakers about the current status of school finance across the nation, and provide them with objective information."

Mr. Odden said he hopes to release the report card annually.

In addition to the report card, Mr. Odden said, invest 21 plans to release papers on four other topics next fall: the costs of restructuring middle schools; the finance implications of school choice; the financing of national education goals; and the funding implications of integrating public services for children into the schools.

Issues to be examined in papers released during the center's second year include site-based management and budgeting; teacher-professionalism proposals; performance-incentive programs and state incentive grants; and interstate fiscal disparities.

Mr. Odden stressed, however, that the center's research agenda has not been "carved in stone."

"We're hanging a little bit loose out here," he said, noting that the center has been seeking suggestions for research topics.--mn

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