A big part of the problem, and the reason why a mere 44 cents per dollar reaches the classroom, is the antiqued and complex funding web now being used.
For weeks lawmakers have been considering options. Most have embraced the elegant simplicity of a streamlined per pupil formula. This takes the name “smart funding” or “backpacking” because dollars are tied to the child (not the district or the programs) and local teachers and principals have the freedom to spend the money on what the children need most.
Opposition has come in two forms. First, it was the bureaucrats who cried to the a House study committee about the danger of taking money away from state level administrators. Their pleas fell on deaf ears.
Now the a small group of anti-reform lawmakers are themselves trying to halt the inevitable adoption of smart funding.
Time and again more money for failing schools (up to $18,000 per child) has not worked to improve instruction. Still, some politicians are stubbornly defending a system that fails to graduate half of its students and works to deepen social and economic disparities.
Representatives Gilda Cobb-Hunter, Bill Cotty and Bill Whitmire are determined to resist reform, even in the face of clear evidence that the status quo is failing. Despite persistent evidence of stagnant SAT and ACT scores, as well as expanding income and race-based performance gaps and a worsening dropout problem, Hunter, Cotty and Whitmire spoke out against streamlining the funding system at Tuesday’s committee meeting.
Thankfully, the SC Policy Council‘s Dr. Bryan Hassel was invited to address the committee and he took the opportunity to clarfiy some of the opponents’ misconceptions. Hassel explained several key points about smart funding, including:
– backpacking ensures money flows to students that need it most; the money follows them to the actual school.
– smart funding allows the school to put their budgets together to maximize their efficiencies; and it simplifies the system with less regulation and lessens administrative costs.
– the existence of different schools and populations in the same district allows schools to tailor a package more suitable to their needs.
– backpacking means more focus on total performance and achievement as a standard, instead of strictly procedural standards. This means holding districts and schools accountable for final outcomes, not the fruitless following of administrative rules.
Hassel is right: the money is already there, the individual school principals need the freedom to spend it more wisely.