Misplaced Optimism and Weighted Funding
Liberals and conservatives alike have made "weighted student funding" a core idea of their reform prescriptions. Both groups see such weighted funding as providing more dollars to the specific schools they tend to focus upon, and both see it as inspiring improved achievement through newfound political pressures. Unfortunately, both groups are very likely wrong.
The overall idea of weighted student funding—that some students require more resources than others because they require extra educational services—makes sense intuitively and provides a sensible way for states to think about pieces of their school finance systems. The usual categories of students requiring "weights" are those in special education, disadvantaged students as generally defined by family income, and English-language learners.
Indeed, every state in the union currently uses some version of weighted funding, either through explicit inclusion in its funding formula or through allocations using "weighted students" instead of actual students. The federal government's most significant K-12 spending programs target disadvantaged students (through Title I) and students with disabilities (via the Individuals...
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