A LYS reader submits the following idea for equitable school funding:Define what constitutes an education. What does a student have a right to? I propose a Chevrolet will do. Providing a Cadillac is a luxury we can no longer afford (if we ever really provided a Cadillac). U.S. Supreme Court rulings support this viewpoint. Our current practice is that educators define education and demand funding for it. If they change the definition of education by adding more programs, they need more money. If the state doesn’t supply the money, the state is by definition not funding education. If a school down the street has a program I don’t have, that is not equitable. In the absence of a definition of rights, anything goes. This is a spending doom loop. Here is my Chevrolet plan: For K-6, I would fund a curriculum that taught the cores, art, music, and PE to the tune of 22:1 ratio. I would call that 60% of the funding and would add another 40% for overhead, administration, and special needs, etc. I suspect we could get away with 70% / 30%, but this is a good start. For 9-12, I would look at the 26 credits needed to graduate high school. I would fund 26 credits to the tune of 150 students per teacher per day. I would do something similar for grades 7 and 8. Fund 16 credits to the tune of 150 students per teacher per day. Again, the 60% / 40% idea applies. I still think we could go 70% / 30%, but since few people ever hit 60% instructional spending, I can’t be sure. Keep in mind I would NOT fund 32 credits, 40 credits, or anything like that. I would fund the 26 credits, which could be earned in just over 3 years. The senior year is cleaning up loose ends, college enrollment, or career training. I would do the formulas for the ideas above, and fund it. I suspect we would find that we don’t need the $1.04 that is the current baseline of taxation for most districts. I would collect the taxes from all districts and distribute them from the state via the formulas, period. Now for the local control part. TEA reports that Texas schools spend on average 2.4% of their budgets on extracurricular. After a quick tabulation of the budgets I have worked with, I would say the actual number is much closer to 10%. There are lots of ways to hide funding, especially when local districts are allowed to define what an education will be. I would allow local school boards to levy a 0 to 3.2% tax without taxpayer approval for the purpose of funding extracurricular activities. This is also a local property tax at a rate calculated to yield the 3.2% of the M&O budget. I get the 3.2% by taking the 2.4% and adding 30% for indirect expenses. Note it is critical to define what an education is (curricular) as well as what extracurricular is. Currently schools are counting money spent on extracurricular activities as instructional expenses since the state basically funds any elective a school chooses to offer. Some high schools do 28 credits, most do 32, and some do 40 or more. Perhaps this is a source of inequity? Now, I suspect the 3.2% will not be nearly enough money, so, with a tax rollback election (TRE) allow a district to do local taxes that will generate funds all the way to 10% of the local M&O for the SOLE purpose of extracurricular activities. So there we have it, a defined education that is formula funded, the same for every youth across the state, and local control to spend as the community sees fit on extracurricular activities. SC Response I would argue that the state has made attempts to “define” a quality education. We can argue the merits of that definition (but we both know in this case we would agree over 80% of the points), but for this discussion, it is immaterial. The state that made a commitment to fund the quality education that it defined. Sadly, as has always been the case (Edgewood I, II and III), the state has not made good on its commitment. Previously, that was not catastrophic because the state allowed the local entity to compensate through local taxation (which they had to do every year). What is different this time in Texas? The difference this year is that the Governor took away that local safety net that always made up for the lack of state leadership. This current budget crisis has been manufactured either due to a lack of foresight (he was warned, thank you former Comptroller Stayhorn) or by design. Either way, he is responsible for this fiasco. If the Governor was a Principal or Superintendent, he would already have his stuff packed in a box – looking for a new job. Instead, we get sound bites saying that the cuts to staff, reduction of programs, and raiding of fund balances are “local decisions.” Now for your funding formulas, I don’t have an argument against your elementary plan. I might fund at 24:1 and give the district the freedom to have larger classes. For grades 7 and 8, I might fund 14 instead of 16 classes (with 8 cores). I’m a fan of strong cores. For HS, I could live with 26 credits with all extra-curriculars moved outside the school day. This would allow for 16 cores subjects (4X4), two years of foreign language, 8 elective credits and extra-curricular activities. However, I recognize that this is merely an academic exercise because anything that resembles the model you suggest would require political leadership to take a stand with a workable solution. Something that the current cast of characters has yet to do. Think. Work. Achieve.Your turn…Follow Sean Cain on www.Twitter.com/LYSNationComing Soon – “The Fundamental Five: The Formula for Quality Instruction” www.thefundamentalfive.com

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