Eric Hanushek, Marguerite Roza, and Frederick Hess provided Ohio’s lawmakers today with ideas for helping the Buckeye State retool its school funding system. StudentsFirst, an education reform organization, recruited these leading experts to Ohio and arranged meetings with both the House and the Senate finance committees. Ohio’s Governor John Kasich has promised to address school funding in his 2013 biennial budget proposal.
Hanushek, who testified in person (Hess and Roza joined by videoconference), led off the conversation with these lawmakers. He enumerated five principles of a strong school finance and accountability system. (These are described in more detail in his publication, Schoolhouses, Courthouses, and Statehouses: Solving the Funding-Achievement Puzzle in America’s Public Schools.) These principles include:
1. Establishing a set of standards, assessments, and accountability for schools that are strong and transparent.
2. Empowering local districts to allocate funds in ways that meet the needs of their students. State lawmakers shouldn’t dictate, Hanushek insisted, how districts spend their funds.
3. Rewarding successful schools and not directing additional funds to failing schools. State lawmakers need to resist the impulse to distribute more funds to failing districts, as it may incentivize failure.
4. Providing funding for innovation and evaluation. The state should fund innovative educational practices and programs, but any innovative program funded by the state should also be rigorously evaluated. Importantly, Hanushek emphasized that evaluation of innovative programs needs to be done at the inception of the program, not after the program has been implemented.