Bruce Baker, Rutgers University
Weighted Student Funding for California
, the new policy brief from the ReasonFoundation,
examines California Governor Jerry Brown’s school finance reform plan. It
touts the benefits of the reform and makes suggestions for improvements, some of whichare based on a recently adopted school finance bill in Colorado.
The Reason report asserts
that Brown’s proposed plan is better than the
status quo, arguing that it has the potentialto more equitably distribute funding across local public school districts. Yet no data arepresented or evaluated to support these claims. The bulk of the brief is instead dedicatedto the claim that additional controls are needed to ensure that equitable funding isdistributed to students in the specific schools they attend.The report argues that the state should require local district adoption of
weighted student funding (WSF)
formulas, which means passing along to schools the weighted state fundsallocated to the district for each student. The policy brief argues that the literatureinvariably supports the contention that driving these funds down to the school levelimproves within-district equity. But this assertion is drawn from a filtered reading of theliterature. As discussed herein, the literature on the equity successes of district-level weighted funding formulas is mixed. Yet, even though sufficient evidence to establish thatlink is lacking, the Reason Foundation makes the leap of suggesting that just such reformsin Oakland and San Francisco are responsible for achievement gains. The report alsoasserts that the benefits of decentralized control are uncontroversial and are perceivedpositively by the involved parties. But even the reports cited in the brief raise questionsabout buy-in from principals.
II. Findings and Conclusions of the Report
The report asserts that the major advantages of the California finance reform proposal areas follows: