Saturday, September 29, 2012

AISD Explores New Way of Funding Schools

AISD is exploring a new way of funding schools that will make a huge difference in how they spend government money by tying the funds to students.  The district is in the process of trying to get roughly $2 million in grants to find where funding inequities exist and to come up with a new student-based formula, reports.

Right now, AISD distributes funds primarily based on state staffing formulas, program requirements or building needs, which does not ensure that if a child transfers schools that the actual cost of their education is covered.  Under the new system, which follows a model used by many districts including Chicago, Denver, Boston and Houston, different "weights" are given to factors such as being poor, gifted, or an English Language learner.

AISD has long been accused of funding inequities, but this is the first time they have considered using this new system, which is meant to make sure extra funds follow needy students, but which also could put a burden on small, underenrolled schools.  The goal is to have schools be able to use the funds they are given as they see best.  

Critics point out that because principals are able to determine how money is used, they become much more powerful in this sort of system.  They also often are not able to use their budget to its full potential because they do not have the experience in allocating money.  

Critics also say that the system can really affect small or underenrolled schools negatively because they don't have the economies of scale of larger schools.  A lot of small schools in Houston were forced to cut nurses, librarians and art and music teachers because the money for these positions were not there, resulting in parents pulling their kids out and leading to even lower enrollment.

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