Budget & Finance

Phila. School District Examines Weighted-Student Funding

By Dakarai I. Aarons — March 17, 2010 1 min read

The Philadelphia school district may begin using a weighted-student funding formula in its schools. The board will see Superintendent Arlene Ackerman’s proposal tonight, reports The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Such formulas would base funding on the particular needs of students in a school, rather than enrollment.

Typically, school districts use “staff-based” budgeting. In those formulas, for example, for every 30 students, a school may get another teacher, and for every 500 students, another assistant principal.

Ackerman says moving to a weighted-student formula would help ensure schools with students who have greater needs receive a more equitable share of school funding. The funding formula would be worked out by a committee and implemented in 57 schools next school year.

Under Ackerman’s plan, school-based advisory councils, comprised of staff, parents and perhaps students, would determine how the money is spent.

This is not the first time Ackerman has used a weighted-student funding formula in a school district. She brought such a change 10 years ago to the San Francisco school district while she was superintendent there.

Read this paper (pg. 7-13) from Stacey Childress, a co-director of Harvard University’s Public Education Leadership Project, to learn more about how the policy worked, and didn’t, in San Francisco. Parts of the strategy still remain in place, even though Ackerman left San Francisco in 2006.

A November 2008 report by the American Institutes for Research, based on examining the weighted-student funding formulas used in San Fransisco and Oakland, Calif., found that the funding method did, in fact, help direct more dollars toward students who need more resources, such as English-language learners and students with disabilities, and most educators preferred it. You can read my story on it here.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.