“Smart Funding” the right reform for public schools

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Despite more than $11,480 in per student spending, South Carolina’s public school funding is a mess.

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.

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3 responses to ““Smart Funding” the right reform for public schools

  1. Friends In Places

    Tell the bum brains again that vouchers are dead.

    http://www.thestate.com/editorial-columns/story/513179.html

  2. Marlboro County

    I know what every poor, undereducated county in SC needs, a huge hunking dump with trash from all over the gulf and east coast. Like the one they want to put in Marlboro County SC. The income from one of these will solve all your money problems education and otherwise, at least that is what they are telling us ignorant residents here. www. no-megadump.com

  3. Your Dead-on !!!!
    We should be “credited” for whatever school taxes we pay (as individuals / families) the same amout towards the school of our (the peoples) choice ! BUT we have to have the means to get our kids to and from the school of our choice. We can’t put that on the individual school district. If we , the people want choice, we are going to have to be willing to take responsibility for that choice. If the powers that be can figure out what taxes we DON’T pay and let us know, they sure as hell can figure what we DO pay and let us choose where it goes for the education of our children. AND. . . . if a tax payer doesn’t have any kids in the system . . . or at a certain age . . . . . well, their tax dollars can go (tax deductable) to any school of THEIR chosing and / or to support any program (music, art, etc ).
    Thank You,
    Rick Guiney

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