There’s a new report out called Is School Funding Fair: A National Report Card written by Prof. Bruce Baker of Rutgers (and the blog SchoolFinance 101), David Sciarra, Executive Director of Education Law Center, and Danielle Farrie, also of ELC. The authors “examine the condition of states’ finance systems as the country emerges from the Great Recession, but is still wrestling with its consequences” and strive to make the case that states “take immediate and longer-term action to improve the fairness of their school finance systems.”
New Jersey, once “one of the fairest states,” is cited for declining funding levels; we now, according to the authors, fund schools at $2,619 below 2007 levels.
Check out the review of the report by Holly Yettick at Education Week. She asked Professor Nora Gordon of Georgetown University for feedback because there was no formal peer review process.:
There are significant and distressing disparities in district-level funding both within and across states, and it’s particularly worrisome that these disparities are sometimes regressive.” However, she [Gordon] also believes that using funding as a proxy for school quality does a disservice to poor students, the very ones the authors want to advocate for. An ideal comparison of how districts and states are doing would include data on student outcomes, like how the income gap in NAEP scores varies by state. Two states with similar levels and distributions of funding could have very different student outcomes depending on what they’re doing with their money, which is a lot harder to measure than their revenue levels. This is the line of reasoning behind recent federal efforts, like Race to the Top and ESEA [Elementary and Secondary Education Act] flexibility. Whether or not you’re a fan of the particular policies they’re trying to promote, it’s clear that the federal government is interested in changing how education agencies and schools run, not just in how much money they have.
Danielle Farrie agreed with Yettick that it would interesting to try to correlate school funding with outcomes but Bruce Baker tweeted that Gordon’s critique is “silly.”