Utah Needs “Backpack” Funding

I take on funding inequities at the district level in Utah in the Deseret News education blog. Funding is so unequal between schools in Salt Lake City that a school board member is appealing to the federal Office of Civil Rights. I explain how the legislature should take responsibility and pass the school level “Backpack” funding bill before the legislature this session that would send dollars instead of staff members to schools.

Student Funding Inequities in Utah Schools Make the Case for the School-Based Budgeting Act

This week Michael Clara, a Salt Lake City school board member, filed a complaint with the federal Office of Civil Rights presenting evidence that the most disadvantaged students in the district have too many ineffective and inexperienced teachers. Clara told the Salt Lake Tribunethat the school board was told about the inequities a year ago, citing a report presented at a January 2012 meeting that noted, “Students in Title I schools have a five times higher chance of being with a marginal or ineffective teacher.” Since the district distributes resources based on staff positions at the school-level rather than actual dollars, if some schools are stacked with more-experienced teachers and others have a large number of new teachers, this can result in many thousands of dollars difference in terms of actual funding from one school to another. This effectively cancels out Utah’s commendable efforts to equalize funding at the state-level to ensure that every student receives fair funding in the state.

The Utah legislature is considering a school finance reform bill called the “School-based Budgeting Act” that would address these funding inequities found in Salt Lake City and other school districts around the state. The new funding model would attach education dollars to the backs of students and require districts to send 85 percent of state dollars directly to schools in a simple and transparent manner. The bill would also give principals more autonomy to make financial decisions at the school level to become instructional leaders who use their resources to drive instructional improvements.

Read the whole thing.