Swapping school funding models with D.C.?
The Washington Post reported yesterday about the unintended consequences of Chancellor Michelle Rhee's directive for art, music and physical education in all D.C. schools: There's not enough money for classroom teachers, and class sizes are going up as a result.
The article describes how Rhee -- who, like Dr. Alonso, just completed her first year on the job -- is changing the formula to fund Washington's public schools. Turns out, the city to our south is adopting a staffing-based model that sounds strikingly similar to the one we're scrapping in Baltimore, where schools have specific staff requirements.
Meanwhile, we're adopting a per-pupil model that resembles what Rhee is throwing away, where schools receive a certain amount of money for each child enrolled, plus more to accommodate for special student needs. According to the article, "Rhee contended that many schools were ill-served by the funding method. In her view, the system gave too much power to principals who sometimes made questionable staffing decisions. It also penalized some low-enrollment schools unable to generate sufficient per-pupil revenue to maintain quality academic programs."
Sound familiar? Those are precisely the things people in Baltimore have been worried about for the past four months since our new funding model was unveiled. Yet we've also heard about how inequitable funding was under the staffing-based model and how principals are powerless to make meaningful changes in their schools without some autonomy over their budgets.
So what's a school district to do? As with so many issues in urban education, it seems there are no clear solutions.