School Empowerment and Weighted Student Formula Programs Expand in 2007-2008

Philadelphia becomes the newest urban school district to consider using a weighted student formula model where money follows students into schools. In August 2008 Philadelphia school superintendent Arlene Ackerman outlined her vision for improving Philadelphia schools. In this August 22, Philadelphia Inquirer piece, Ackerman said she plans on starting a discussion of weighted student funding – where schools get more money for educating children with more educational needs, such as special-education students, or impoverished children. She plans a weighted student funding pilot out by fall 2009, with citywide adoption in September 2010. For the details of her Philadelphia plans go here. In the Reason Foundation’s Annual Privatization Report 2008, we examine the huge surge in weighted student formula programs and school empowerment plans across the nation. Here is a snippet from our Annual Privatization Report 2008 about the new weighted student formula program in Maryland: For Maryland in 2008, Baltimore Public Schools CEO Andres Alonso has introduced a decentralized funding structure for city schools. The plan gives principals the authority to make decisions previously handled by the central office. The 2008 budget cuts 310 jobs from the school system’s central office, closes a $50 million shortfall, diverts $70 million from the central office to schools and gives principals more power. Principals are absorbing many responsibilities and funding decisions that the central office used to handle, from overseeing janitorial services to determining class size. As Alonso has said repeatedly at principals meetings, “this isn’t Christmas.” Currently, principals control only about $90 of the $13,000 that the system spends per pupil. Under the 2008-09 funding formula contained in the budget, principals will have discretion over at least $5,000 per student. Again for the full story on weighted student formula and all the school privatization news for 2008 go here to our annual report.