Nation’s Fifth Largest School District to Overhaul Funding System

Commentary

Nation’s Fifth Largest School District to Overhaul Funding System

Nevada’s Clark County School District (CCSD) will adopt student-based budgeting in the 2017-18 school year after a panel of state lawmakers approved regulations for a plan that will transform the district. The move stems from last year’s Assembly Bill 394, which requires a complete overhaul of CCSD’s organizational structure.

In a statement, Gov. Brian Sandoval praised the reorganization saying “The language approved by the commission, passed with unanimous bipartisan support, puts the decisions that have an immediate impact in our classrooms directly in the hands of parents, teachers and principals, which is where it belongs.”

CCSD’s new structure features several prominent changes that will benefit students, school leaders and taxpayers alike. Notably, the district will implement a weighted student formula to deliver funds to schools.

According to CCSD’s plan, “One of the real benefits of the WSF is that the system is less complicated and easier to understand, thereby providing for more informed involvement by staff and parents. Another benefit of the WSF is that it better informs the conversation around whether one school or another is receiving special treatment.”

Additionally, school leaders will have more autonomy over things such as budgeting, purchasing and hiring, which research has shown to be effective in boosting achievement in places like New Orleans. CCSD will also cut bureaucracy by modernizing the role of district support functions, including an innovative school-to-pay model in which principals purchase services from the central office, which the plan outlines:

The dilemma faced by an organization that has both economic goods and “free goods” is that invariably a disproportion expenditure occurs in the provision of “free goods”. The solution to this situation is to create a market-driven operation in which the requests by schools for services are made on a “school-to-pay” basis. To implement such an arrangement requires that the resources that previously funded the provision of those “free” services be reallocated to the schools, which, in turn, use those resources to purchase the services as needed at the school.

To be sure, CCSD’s plan has several shortcomings such as continued use of average teacher salaries in budgeting and others previously noted by Molly Davis. Nevertheless, it’s a significant step forward that will result in greater equity, transparency, and accountability for outcomes for the district’s 320,000 students.

Aaron Garth Smith is an education policy analyst at Reason Foundation, a nonprofit think tank advancing free minds and free markets.