Opinion: K-12 Update

Lindalyn’s Journal

Week of November 27, 2006

As 2006 draws to a close, education reformers are already looking ahead to the coming year. What ideas will ignite debate in 2007? One perennially combustible issue – education funding – is sure to get even hotter. Leading the pack of financial reforms is the concept of weighted student funding.

Why should conservatives fixate on education spending and financial equity? Like it or not, money is the driving force in American public education. U.S. elementary and secondary education spending already exceeds $500 billion.

Yet more than 100 organizations have joined together to advocate for even more funding as the cure to a vast array of educational ills. Simple-minded calls for unabated spending have a down side, however. As Senator Everett Dirksen once said, “A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon it adds up to real money.”

Real money indeed, and it’s coming out of your wallet and mine. Clearly, it’s time we challenged our traditional education spending paradigm. Last June, the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation did just that, with their ground-breaking report, Fund the Child: Tackling Inequity and Antiquity in School Finance.

This report, highlighted in one of my recent journals, proposes a system of weighted student funding (WSF) that would up-end common spending conventions. According to the Fordham Foundation, WSF has the following key tenets: funding from all levels follows the child (rather than a system or school); dollar amounts vary with student needs; funding comes to schools in real dollars and can be used flexibly. Created in Edmonton, Alberta in the 1970s, WSF is catching on slowly in America: urban school systems in Cincinnati, Houston and Seattle already use forms of WSF, leading to ongoing debate among policymakers.

As your primary resource for the latest K-12 education information, the Alliance will host an event addressing this important issue. On January 9, 2007, Dr. Bryan Hassel, national education reform expert, will speak at an Alliance luncheon in Charlotte on weighted student funding. Dr. Hassel is the Co-Director of Public Impact, a Chapel Hill-based education policy and management consulting firm, and was a principal author of the Fordham Foundation report on WSF.

Don’t miss this opportunity to hear Dr. Hassel speak about the newest innovation in education funding. Mark your 2007 calendar for January 9th and reserve your seat online today. I hope to see you there!