‘Weighted Funding’ and Management Reforms

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To the Editor:

If states decide to require student-based budgeting, as California is said to be considering, it may be another instance of mishandling a desirable practice by mandating it ("‘Weighted’ Funding of Schools Gains Favor," Nov. 3, 2004).

In Edmonton, Alberta, the approach described early on as “school-based budgeting” and later as “school-based management” was developed gradually over several decades by committed administrators and board members. The idea is simple but powerful: If local educators are to be accountable, they should decide how to use the available resources. And if funds are to be allocated directly to schools, it only makes sense to recognize that some students cost more to educate than others.

Equitable funding is basic, but Edmonton’s program involves much more. It also includes intentional differentiation of schools and full parent choice. Intentional differentiation means purposely creating a variety of schools, in an effort to satisfy a variety of wants and needs. (Charter schools do this to some degree in some jurisdictions, but charter schools are considered to be separate from the regular school system.)

Student-based budgeting, intentional variation, and parent choice reinforce one another. In the late 1980s, some states and large districts required a version of school-based management that emphasized shared governance (local school councils that weakened the authority of principals). Researchers found that this distorted version of school-based management did not improve achievement, so reformers lost interest in the idea. Now it appears to be back in the form in which it began: as a way to allocate funding.

Ron Brandt
Alexandria, Va.

Vol. 24, Issue 12, Page 34

Published in Print: November 17, 2004, as ‘Weighted Funding’ and Management Reforms

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