School Finance

OhioFlypaper

The holiday season has arrived - and here at Fordham Ohio we're feeling pretty darn generous. ??We've decided to bestow upon you this week not one, but TWO Ohio Education Gadflies!

Hot on the heels of Monday's Special Edition, the regular Ohio Education Gadfly returns and you won't want to miss it!

This edition features a Q&A with Mark North, superintendent of Lebanon City Schools whose district is facing challenges from the unfunded mandates in H.B. 1. Jamie provides timely coverage of a report from The New Teacher Project that could have profound implications for improving teacher effectiveness in Cincinnati Public Schools. And be sure to check out a recap of Checker's recent keynote address at the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools Annual Conference. (You can find the full text here??and the Q&A session below.)

The Dayton Daily News asked today why the "big names" in education from the Dayton area weren't on the state's new "Ohio School Funding Advisory Council". The names referenced included Fordham's Terry Ryan.

Capital Matters overfloweth with timely coverage of the recent flood of education-related legislation. Among them are bills that address the Buckeye State's bid in Race to the Top, and the proposed changes to the Ohio school rating system and its all-day kindergarten mandate.

Rounding out the issue are several excellent short reviews and Flypaper's...

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John Derbyshire is no optimist... that is when it comes to education policy. In an excerpt from his soon-to-be-released??We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism, he explains how education policy has nothing new under the sun. One particular common theme? That more money will solve education's ills. It's been tried countless times and it's failed each and every one of them. So what's new about there being nothing new? That these theme of spending more money on education is being endorsed by the current administration. "We must push our elected officials to supply the resources to fix our schools.??.??.??.??We can't pass a law called No Child Left Behind and then leave the money behind," Derbyshire quotes President Obama. He continues:

It is not quite true that there is nothing new under the sun, but there is nothing new in education theory, ever: just the same truths, revealed again and again, then pushed down the same memory hole by the same lying careerists, the same wishful-thinking fantasists, and the same parrot-brained politicians.

Zing.

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The Thomas B. Fordham Institute and Brookings Institution Press are pleased to announce the publication of From Schoolhouse to Courthouse: The Judiciary's Role in American Education (Paperback, $28.95, publication date: September 8, 2009). This important new book provides a wealth of critical information and insight for scholars, students, attorneys, and school officials alike, examining the effects that the courts have had on American classrooms over the last sixty years and are having today.

Edited by Joshua M. Dunn, associate professor of political science at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, and Martin R. West, assistant professor of education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, From Schoolhouse to Courthouse brings together experts in political science, education policy, and law to paint a comprehensive portrait of the role of the courts in modern American K-12 education.

Contributors to the book: Richard Arum (New York University), Samuel R. Bagenstos (University of Michigan Law School), Martha Derthick (University of Virginia), John Dinan (Wake Forest University), Lance D. Fusarelli (North Carolina State University), Michael Heise (Cornell Law School), Frederick M. Hess (American Enterprise Institute), R. Shep Melnick (Boston College), Doreet Preiss (New York University), and James E. Ryan (University of Virginia School of Law).

Education Week posted a blog recently with a link to the slew of comments offered up by folks in response the U.S. Department of Education's criteria for awarding the Race to the Top (RTTT) funds (i.e., $4 billion dollars in competitive grants). There are over 1,500 comments from educational organizations, think tanks, policymakers, advocacy groups, teachers, you name it...One could spend days and days combing through the PDF files, but here are a handful that I opened to read:

AERA: Like others, AERA is off-put by the emphasis on school turn-around strategies. They recommend that "all turn-around strategies proposed by state and local districts be strengthened by requiring a theoretical and research-based justification..." Don't hold your breath on that one. Unsurprisingly, they are also not happy about using student achievement as a central measure to evaluate teachers and principals. They contend that tests have not been validated for such purposes and that states should "justify whatever assessment measure [they] use rather than fixing on a single procedure."?? In other words, use multiple measures and water down the significance of student achievement...

Kate Walsh over at NCTQ is concerned that the definition of alternative certification routes in the RTTT language "seems more consistent with a traditional undergraduate preparation program than a true alternative." She's not keen on requiring a "clinical/student teaching experience" and says that the same goals can be met via intensive mentoring support.

Then there's a lengthy...

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Late last Friday, when it would attract little or no news coverage, the National Education Association offered its detailed feedback on Arne Duncan's "Race to the Top" plans. 26 pages worth.

Strictly speaking, these are comments on proposed federal regulations that will guide the Education Department in disbursing these billions, including funding priorities, rules for eligible applicants, etc. This is the mechanism by which the Obama team is striving--against considerable Congressional and school-establishment opposition--to turn the education portion of the "stimulus" dollars into a driver of reform rather than simply a back-filling budget subsidy for strapped states and districts.

Duncan has been clear from the outset about his priorities. Here is how he stated them in late July when the guidelines were published:

States seeking funds will be pressed to implement four core, interconnected reforms. We sometimes call them the four assurances, and those assurances are what we are going to be looking for from states, districts, and their local partners in reform. For starters, we expect that winners of the Race to the Top grants will work to reverse the pervasive dumbing down of academic standards and assessments that has taken place in many states....That's why we are looking for Race to the Top states to adopt common, internationally-benchmarked K-12 standards that truly prepare students for college and careers. To speed this process, the Race to the Top program is going to set aside $350 million to competitively fund the development of rigorous, common state assessments.

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Education Next has just released an interesting and tantalizing debate on school funds. In the wake of Flores, issues of funding equity have again risen to the fore. It's lucky then that the participants in this debate, Eric Hanushek and Alfred Lindseth (authors of the tome??Schoolhouses, Courthouses, and Statehouses: Solving the Funding-Achievement Puzzle??in America's Public Schools) and Michael Rebell (author of the forthcoming??Courts and??Kids: Pursuing Educational Equity through the State Courts) are here to hash it out. Hanushek and Lindseth argue that spending the money already going into education more wisely is the ticket, specifically by reforming teacher pay scales to a performance-based model. Rebell counters that if you take a second look at the numbers, American education funding is actually neither adequate nor equitable. Definitely worth a read!

And if this topic interests you, Fordham (in concert with Brookings) will be publishing its own (slightly more general) contribution on this conversation in the form of the forthcoming book From Schoolhouse to Courthouse. Keep an eye out for its release in August.

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Voucher opponents often argue that it's unfair to hold public schools accountable for results under the No Child Left Behind Act and various state rules while allowing private schools that participate in voucher programs to receive taxpayer dollars without similar accountability.

We at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute don't entirely buy that argument but we also believe there's room for a reasonable middle ground. It's time for the school-voucher movement to embrace accountability done right, just as most of the charter-school movement has done. But it's also vital to preserve the capacity of private schools to be different and not to deter them from taking children who would benefit.

In pursuit of that middle ground, we sought the advice of twenty experts in the school-choice world. This paper presents their thoughts and opinions, as well as Fordham's own ideas.

The majority of experts agree that participating private schools should not face new regulation of their day-to-day affairs. They also see value in helping parents make informed choices by providing data about how well their own children are performing.

However, experts are not of one mind when it comes to making academic results and financial audits transparent. Some would "let the market rule" and are averse to transparency or accountability around school-level results. Others would "treat private schools like charter schools" when it comes to testing, financial transparency, etc. Some would also like government (or its proxy) to intervene if individual schools aren't performing adequately.

We suggest a "sliding scale" approach...

Ohio Governor Ted Strickland's education plan calls for modernizing Ohio's K-12 education system, including the state's school-funding system, but the plan's so-called "evidence-based" approach would actually scuttle any modernizing efforts, argues this study issued by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

The governor's funding plan "would prop up an outdated system of school finance that establishes funding levels based on convention rather than need, sustains institutions whether they work or not, spends money with little regard for results and holds adults accountable for compliance not results," says author Paul T. Hill, Corbally Professor at the University of Washington, director of that university's Center on Reinventing Public Education, Senior Fellow at Brookings and former senior social scientist at RAND.

In fact, Hill says, "Once one gets past the rhetoric, one finds that the main active ingredients in the governor's plan are spending increases towards helping schools and districts employ more administrators, teachers and support staff."

Hill was lead author on the six-year, $6 million, Gates-funded, nationwide study Facing the Future: Financing Productive Schools. This report, issued in December 2008, is the most comprehensive study of its kind ever conducted, prepared by more than 40 economists, lawyers, financial specialists, and education policy makers. It was comprised of more than 30 separate studies, including in-depth looks at Ohio, North Carolina, Texas and Washington.

Much of Gov. Strickland's evidence-based approach to school funding runs counter to what the Gates report recommended in December. That study shows that "schools and systems that work...

Ohio can boast of praiseworthy gains over the past decade in making school funding more equitable across districts. The next step must be to make funding fairer within districts, according to this study from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. This imperative also gives Ohio the opportunity to modernize its public-education finance system to keep pace with powerful changes in the education system itself.

To mitigate the school-finance inequities that remain within districts and gear school funding toward the realities of student mobility, school choice and effective school-based management, the report recommends that Ohio embrace Weighted Student Funding (WSF).

Weighted Student Funding makes equity a reality within districts by allocating resources based on the needs of individual students and by sending dollars directly to schools rather than lodging most spending decisions at the district level.

Today, one in seven Ohio students is educated in a school other than their neighborhood district school. Families increasingly change schools during the course of their children's K-12 careers and more and more of them select options other than their assigned district schools, options that include magnet schools, community (charter) schools, and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) schools. Yet there is no mechanism to ensure that as students move from one school to another, resources move, too.

And while Ohio has made a start at modifying education funding according to the singular needs of individual children, most school dollars are doled out without regard to student circumstances and needs-and even when they are, districts may...

Margaret Spellings addressed the Reading First state directors on Thursday and complained about Congress's "devastating" budget cut of the program. It's about time. If she had shown even an iota of courage 18 months ago, when the so-called scandal first broke, the program might have remained in-tact. But as Sol Stern shows in painful detail, she and the rest of the Administration headed for cover instead. Such decisions have consequences, Madame Secretary, consequences that are all too real for the 4,000-odd schools likely to see their Reading First funds disappear.

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