Education Opinion

Funding Adequacy Still Misunderstood

By Walt Gardner — November 20, 2013 1 min read

Despite a series of court rulings over the years, states are still not funding public schools fairly. The issue is in the limelight once again because schools are expected to meet the Common Core standards (“In Public Education, Edge Still Goes to Rich,” The New York Times, Nov. 6).

Although state constitutions vary in their wording, the principle of adequacy is at the center of the debate over funding. The problem is that what constitutes adequate funding in schools serving affluent students is woefully inadequate in schools serving non-English speaking and special education students. In other words, equal funding for every student is not the answer.

In its place, weighted student funding has been proposed. This means that funding would be based on the numbers and types of students enrolled. Whether it would work as intended, however, is debatable. That’s because the U.S. has a “complex, multilayered education system” (“Weighted Student Funding in the Netherlands: A Model for the U.S.?” Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, May 2010).

Nevertheless, I think California serves as a model. Its new budget gives more money to districts with greater concentrations of needy students. It begins with a specified base payment for each student. Schools will get 20 percent more for each student who is poor enough to qualify for a free lunch or is not fluent in English. An additional “concentration” payment is made for districts in which more than 55 percent of students are disadvantaged. Special education students will be covered by federal funds.

No system is perfect. For example, some districts have pointed out they will not get enough dollars to restore programs serving all students that were cut during the past five years (“Schools with fewer needy students decry California funding change,” Los Angeles Times, Jun. 17). But I think California serves as a good start. The key is to allow individual schools enough flexibility in using the funds.

Yet I stress that no amount of money spent in schools will result in the outcomes all reasonable people seek. That’s because so much of student performance is the direct result of factors beyond the control of the best teachers. Until we are committed to addressing these conditions, I expect to see a continuation, with some modifications, of what we have today.

The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner’s Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Future of Work Webinar
Digital Literacy Strategies to Promote Equity
Our new world has only increased our students’ dependence on technology. This makes digital literacy no longer a “nice to have” but a “need to have.” How do we ensure that every student can navigate
Content provided by Learning.com
Mathematics Online Summit Teaching Math in a Pandemic
Attend this online summit to ask questions about how COVID-19 has affected achievement, instruction, assessment, and engagement in math.
School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Speech Therapists
Lancaster, PA, US
Lancaster Lebanon IU 13
Elementary Teacher
Madison, Wisconsin
One City Schools

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: January 13, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read