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.
5. Creating a rational and equitable funding system that acknowledges the disadvantages of some students. Hanushek argued that state funds should follow students, regardless of what school they attend and weighted by their need (weighted student funding).
Roza and Hess made similar suggestions to Ohio House members. Like Hanushek, they also argued for strong accountability, student-centered funding, and funds for innovation. All of these are levers the state can use to improve the performance of Ohio schools—and place its students on the pathway to success in college and career.
We at Fordham have and continue to support many of the principles and suggestions of those who testified this morning, which include weighted student funding, school efficiency, strong accountability, and educational innovation. We hope that, as the state puts into place a funding plan for schools next spring, the legislature will consider and act upon these principles.