A Tale of Two Districts: A Comparative Study of Student-Based Funding and School-Based Decision Making in San Francisco and Oakland Unified School Districts

Ben Hoffman

Jay Chambers, Larisa Shambaugh, Jesse Levin, Mari Muraki, Lindsay Poland
American Institutes for Research
October 2008

This study examines the implementation of student-based funding (SBF, also known as weighted student funding or WSF) in two neighboring school districts--San Francisco and Oakland--and offers a potpourri of findings. On the one hand, almost every school- and district-level respondent favored SBF over a return to traditional funding policies, despite the larger workload that SBF lays upon them. SBF can also lead to increased demand for transparency and other improvements, and, perhaps best of all, require a culture shift from compliance to innovation. But student-based funding is no panacea. The report stresses that it isn't really even a "reform mechanism for change." After all, implementing SBF policies doesn't address fundamental funding inadequacies or eradicate socioeconomic segregation or solve sundry other problems. SBF adjusts the inputs in a field where outcomes are what really matter. But it's based on a noble and practical premise, and more studies examining what works and what doesn't would be welcomed. As for this one, you can read it here.

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