Many of the programs and interventions funded outside of the school finance formulas are directed towards improving the academic success of economically disadvantaged students and those at-risk of dropping out. In 2011, over $647 million for those programs was cut from the education budget; very little of this funding was restored in 2013.
These programs were cut, not because they were individually ineffective, but because it’s easy to cut program that fall outside of the formulas. However, considering the rapid growth in economically disadvantaged students (Currently at 60 percent, the percentage of economically disadvantaged students has grown at twice the rate of overall student growth in the past 10 years.) this hodge-podge collection of programs and interventions might not be the most efficient approach to meeting the needs of this growing population.
In court, one of the challenges to the school finance system is equity, meaning that every child should receive the resources needed to succeed, not that every child receives the same amount of funding. In order to provide an equal opportunity to succeed for all students, the state must be willing to direct greater resources towards the students with the most need. The most efficient way to increase equity in the school finance system for low-income students is to increase the Compensatory Education weight within the formulas, which hasn’t been adjusted since the mid-1980s.
To improve the educational outcomes of economically disadvantaged students, districts need a reliable source of funding and the flexibility to distribute that funding in a way the meets the unique needs of its students. The House Appropriations Committee should broaden their scope and call for a full study of the weights and allotments within the school finance formulas.