Reforms > Local Control Funding Formula

State Board handed job of defining rules of new funding system



The Legislature will vote today on a bill establishing Gov. Brown’s historic school funding system that punts to the State Board of Education some key decisions on how dollars for disadvantaged students must be spent and accounted for.

The language for implementing the Local Control Funding Formula is SB 91.

The language for implementing the Local Control Funding Formula is SB 91.

Senate Bill 91, the 178-page “trailer” bill containing statutory changes for Gov. Brown’s Local Control Funding Formula, was released Thursday, one day before lawmakers must vote on the $96 billion state budget that includes funding for the new system. Its provisions won’t satisfy advocates for disadvantaged children who had called for restrictions tightly tying funding to targeted students along with detailed information on how every school spends its money. But the bill also may not please districts that wanted broad district control over allocations under the LCFF. The bill indicates the solution – that extra dollars must be spent “in proportion” to the high-needs students who generate them – is somewhere in between.

“We tried to thread the needle,” said Rick Simpson, deputy chief of staff to Assembly Speaker John Pérez, D-Los Angeles.

To be more accurate, lawmakers will be handing the thread and the needle to the State Board (better throw in a thimble for the pain), which, under SB 91, will have until Jan. 31, 2014, to write the regulations spelling out what “in proportion” means. What, for example, would be a permissible districtwide program for English learners? Or what’s the minimum proportion of poor children to add an art teacher who will be teaching all students in a school?

Role for parent involvement

Then, no later than March 31, 2014 – two months after the January deadline – the State Board must complete the templates for the new “local control and accountability plan” that all districts, county offices of education and charter schools must do, showing how they would use the extra money for high-needs students to raise student achievement. State Board President Michael Kirst said that the templates would flesh out the extent of information the district must provide, the assessment of needs and analysis they must conduct and the process they must follow. The county superintendent will be charged with reviewing the plan to verify that the expenses are sufficient to pay for the district’s commitments and that programs will benefit students. If the county superintendent disapproves the plan, the district’s board must publicly respond to the county’s suggestions.

The bill is clear that the extra money should be used to improve or expand programs and services for those students; the State Board will clarify what those might be. Advocate groups will be looking for explicit requirements for parent involvement in the creation of the plan and spending details by school, not simply districtwide. “Local engagement and transparency are key,” said John Affeldt, managing attorney at Public Advocates Inc., a nonprofit law firm and advocacy organization. SB 91 requires that a superintendent consult a district’s new parent advisory committee for the plan, but does not spell out the role of existing school-site councils of parents.

Under the LCFF, districts will receive 20 percent more funding for every English learner, low-income child and foster youth. Those districts in which high-needs students comprise at least 55 percent of the student body will get even more money for a portion of those students.

The three-year local accountability plan, which would be updated yearly, would spell out actions the district would take to expand parent involvement, carry out Common Core standards and ensure there are fully credentialed teachers in schools. The bill details more than a dozen academic and school climate measures, including rates of graduation, student suspension and absenteeism, English learner reclassification rates, Advanced Placement course exam scores and percentages of students qualifying for admission to the University of California and California State University. Kirst said that most of these are already reported on School Accountability Report Cards or SARCs.

‘Holistic’ measures of student success

Including these measures creates a broader view of student progress and in turn is reflected in how districts will be held accountable, Simpson said. In the May revision of the state budget, Brown had proposed to use API scores as the single measure for deciding when to intervene in districts with chronically bad results. Instead, in SB 91, legislative leaders have called for a “holistic, multidimensional assessment” of districts’ and individual schools’ performance (section 52064.5). Once again, it will be the State Board’s job to create the rubric determining when and in what form district sanctions should be imposed. The intent is to focus not on imposing penalties but on providing technical assistance and expertise to help districts improve. “We are unconvinced that market-based approaches, sanctions and threats are the way to change systems,” said Simpson, who helped negotiate the language of SB 91.

Instead of sending in the sheriff – an intervention consultant with marching orders – the county superintendent or the state superintendent of public instruction would assign the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence, a new entity that State Superintendent Tom Torlakson would create.

In a statement on Thursday, Torlakson indicated that the Collaborative would reflect a transformation of the state Department of Education, as control over spending and decision-making shifts to local districts. “While our role as a monitor is important to our mission, we also see enormous potential in becoming a more helpful partner, working side by side with school districts as they strive to improve results for students.”

SB 91 makes it clear that formal intervention, including the assignment of a trustee to create and administer a local control and accountability plan, would be a last resort, after years of persistent failure to raise student achievement. New regulations would lay out the timetable for intervention.

Sherry Griffith, interim assistant executive director for the Association of California School Administrators, said she was pleased with the approach that legislative leaders have taken in creating the Collaborative, “providing more upfront assistance rather than cracking the whip.” The big question is who Torlakson will turn to for the work. Griffith also said it’s appropriate to involve the State Board in establishing LCFF regulations. “This is complicated enough not to want people in back rooms cooking up an approach,” she said. “The Board has checks and balances; all of the details will be publicly vetted.”

 

 

Filed under: Local Control Funding Formula, Policy & Finance, Reforms, State Board, Testing and Accountability

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37 Responses to “State Board handed job of defining rules of new funding system”

  1. Paul Muench said

    on June 14, 2013 at 6:08 am

    Now that school boards have much more influence I hope people will become more interested in what boards do and who serves on school boards. I think the political process can provide enough accountibility for LCFF. Which is why I’m much more interested in state and county politicians focusing on transparency over accountibility. And I’d really like to see more financial transparency as that is the one blaring omission of SARCs. LCFF provides the perfect opportunity and motivation to make financial transparency a reality.

    • navigio replied

      on June 14, 2013 at 10:14 am

      I also hope that, but why should we expect that to happen when it doesn’t even when we explicitly require it, as we do now? Currently categorical requirements mandate that spending is accounted for, but even that explicitly delineated spending is not only obscure but also understood by very few people (most of which are not on local boards). It would be interesting to hear from districts how this will impact their finance division staffing.
      Anyway, I agree with you on financial transparency but believe that will have to come about (or not) for reasons other than LCFF.

      • Paul Muench replied

        on June 14, 2013 at 4:50 pm

        I guess we get to be the pains in the @#$^&’s that keep asking. It worked for Andy Dufresne :)

  2. el said

    on June 14, 2013 at 11:25 am

    By the way, I would love to see any models people have found or discover going forward for exceptional transparency in reporting expenditures. Having dug into this, I’m not sure this is a well solved problem. LCFF does potentially make it easier to report transparently, when we’re not paying a single teacher out of 5 different categorical funding streams.

    • Paul Muench replied

      on June 14, 2013 at 4:48 pm

      What difficulties do you see?

      • el replied

        on June 15, 2013 at 8:03 pm

        It’s just difficult sometimes to match out money in ways that people understand. I’m in a small district, so in our case it’s much easier than someplace like LAUSD. The budget is small enough to fit in one person’s head.

        But even so, some of the typical designations divide out in ways that don’t match functional expectations. You have a classified/certificated division for example, $X spent on classified. What does that MEAN? How much is direct student support? How much is special ed support? How much is maintenance and transportation? How much of that is just basic recess supervision?

        Let’s face it: no one in the public cares how much of the budget is spent on classified staff. It’s meaningless as a statistic to everyone except the classified union. What they want to know is whether that money is spent taking out the trash or helping kids learn to read. Yet, this is how it is reported in the official budget – total classified salaries (restricted) and total classified (unrestricted). Utterly meaningless in terms of “does this money benefit kids in the most efficient possible way.” (And then to obscure it further, benefits are split out as a separate item and combined for both employee groups.)

        This is just one example among many I could mention.

        In my district, over many years, I’ve gotten pretty familiar with where money is spent on who doing what. But it should be possible for a smart layperson to walk in and get a broad, confident understanding of that in an afternoon or evening of reading a single document. It’s not.

        I would love to see an example of financials that are organized in a more functional fashion, where at a glance you could see for example how much is spent on classroom aides versus the special ed or ELL program.

        • Paul Muench replied

          on June 16, 2013 at 7:42 am

          I understand. Given tne spirit of LCFF I’m thinking it would be posible to orient accounting systems to a functional perspective. At least over time. I’m guessing some of the existing difficulties are caused by state mandates around categorical funds.

  3. Manuel said

    on June 14, 2013 at 11:26 am

    Again, my experiences of the last two years tell me that it will be like pulling teeth with a rusty pair of pliers to get LAUSD to conform with the spirit of this mandate. As navigio correctly observes, “they” don’t do it now, how can we expect it “under new management?” Unless the State Board is aggressive in ensuring that the funds are properly spent in bringing additional services to children who need them, they will disappear into the black hole of “trust us, we are running school-wide programs for the poor children.”

    Plus there is a wrinkle in the “proportion section.” The second part of Section 42238.07 reads “authorize a school district [...] to use funds apportioned on the basis of unduplicated pupils [...] in a manner that is no more restrictive than the restrictions provided for in Title I of the federal NCLB Act of 2001.” Well, guess what, that act does not mandate that all children be served other than to state that the upper 75% must get services. This has allowed LAUSD to distribute the money to schools matching “bands” of poverty from 50% to 64.99% and 65% to 100%. They did this this year, leaving out nearly 35,000 students without Title I, Part A, funding, and they will do it again on the next. Is this going to allow them to the same with the supplememtal and concentration money?

    As I wrote elsewhere, this is going to cause big problems for “loser” schools in LAUSD.

    • John Fensterwald replied

      on June 15, 2013 at 8:44 am

      I too had difficulty with the ambiguity of the reference to Title I inserted into the statute, Manuel. As you have noted, LAUSD has raised the minimum proportion of disadvantaged students entitled to Title I at a school from 40 percent to 50 percent, thereby shifting federal money away from schools that had been getting Title I aid.
      LAUSD parents in the schools that have lost money should make the case to the State Board, which will now write the regs defining Section 42238.07 so that the same thing doesn’t happen under LCFF.

      • navigio replied

        on June 15, 2013 at 12:55 pm

        not to defend lausd, but it should be noted that as more schools/districts move into PI, the amount of title 1 money that gets distributed to schools decreases.
        There is also an interesting dynamic involved when deciding what schools should get funding that I have seen in our own district. If the amount of funding decreases to a point where schools can no longer use it effectively, then it is argued that it is more beneficial to reduce the number of schools getting the funding so that the ones getting it get enough to do something effective. Often this is measured by the ability of a school to hire an LDRT or CRT or some other intervention teacher, though not always.
        I’m not saying I agree with that approach, but pointing out that there may be strategies behind these decisions that are not obvious. Not that we should expect our boards of E to actually tell us these things mind you…

  4. Skeptic said

    on June 14, 2013 at 6:05 pm

    I posted this in another thread, so trying again here. Does anybody understand what the following mean in the school finance trailer bill?

    “For a charter school physically located in more than one school district, the charter school’s percentage of unduplicated pupils calculated pursuant to paragraph (5) of subdivision (b) in excess of 55 percent used to calculate concentration grants shall not exceed that of the school district with the highest percentage of unduplicated pupils calculated pursuant to paragraph (5) of subdivision (b) in excess of 55 percent of the school districts in which the charter school has a school facility.”

    • el replied

      on June 14, 2013 at 6:15 pm

      Perhaps by “charter school” they mean “charter school operator” that has more than one campus? The last line seems to have an unnecessary clause there.

      • Skeptic replied

        on June 14, 2013 at 6:29 pm

        I guess they’ll leave it to the lawyers to clarify what a charter school is :).

        Does this language then mean that if you have 2 schools with high concentration (one charter and one non-charter) in a medium or low-concentration district; the charter could get the high concentration bonus if it’s part of a charter network that has one school in a high concentration district possibly in a different county (even if that other school is not high concentration itself)?

        • navigio replied

          on June 15, 2013 at 11:16 am

          No. See Eric’s comment below. The paragraph should only be referring to a cap, not the way the concentration is calculated in the first place. That said, it seems odd to impose a cap on any school, dare I say, even a charter school.

    • Eric Premack replied

      on June 14, 2013 at 6:25 pm

      Skeptic: The provision you quote relates to the fact that charter schools’ concentration grants are capped as a function of their local district. If, for example, a charter school serves a student population that is 80 percent eligible for supplemental/concentration funding, but the local district is only 60 percent, the charter school’s concentration funding is “haircut” at the 60 percent level.

      Some charter schools, however, are located in more than one site. The provision you quote specifies that the charter school’s “haircut” is based on the district with the higher concentration funding.

      • Skeptic replied

        on June 15, 2013 at 2:26 pm

        So, a high concentration (80%) charter school in a low-concentration (20%) district could get concentration bonus up to 80% if another school in its network in a high concentration (80%) district at the other end of the State?
        While a high concentration (80%) non-charter school across the street or sharing the same campus would not, because its district is at a 20%?

        • navigio replied

          on June 15, 2013 at 2:47 pm

          If you interpret ‘charter’ school to mean dispersed ‘groups’ of charters, then yes. Though in reading the surrounding text, maybe it actually was meant literally. It seems possible for a single school to physically overlap a boundary of two separate districts (i’ve even seen houses that were half in one district, half in another).
          Anyway, I am surprised that charters have a cap at the local district rate. While this wont matter for most charters, there are some charters that target high needs kids exclusively. This aspect should really be clarified, and soon.

          • Skeptic replied

            on June 15, 2013 at 3:00 pm

            If there was no cap at the local district rate, shouldn’t the concentration bonus be at the school level -charter or not- then? And if you did this, wouldn’t this be a financial incentive for segregation (in both charter and non-charter schools)?

          • John Fensterwald replied

            on June 15, 2013 at 4:56 pm

            The California Charter School Association reports that there are instances in which a charter school has two sites in more than one district. This statute also would apply to countywide charters, with authority for multiple sites, according to the CCSA.

          • Skeptic replied

            on June 15, 2013 at 5:20 pm

            Do you happen to have an example of that?

            re: countywide charters, don’t they need a separate charter for each physical school (presumably in one district)? And if there were to viewed as a countywide network, shouldn’t the cap be determined by the countywide numbers instead?

            All in all, does it seem fair that you could have two sets of students in a given low-medium concentration district: one with the high concentration bonus (because the charter network has an affiliate in a high concentration district) and the other one without that bonus (even when attending a high concentration non charter-school)?

          • John Fensterwald replied

            on June 15, 2013 at 6:05 pm

            The Santa Clara County Office of Education has granted countywide charters for Rocketship Education, which specifically targets low-income students and English learners (you can check the data to see that it is true to that mission). Some of those students cross district boundaries to attend those schools (Alum Rock and Gilroy students going to sites in San Jose). Using countywide averages for Santa Clara County (38 percent low-income, 23 percent English learners) would deny Rocketship money for those students. Districts with low concentrations of targeted students overall are making the same argument for concentration grants for high-concentration schools within their boundaries.

  5. Jerry Heverly said

    on June 14, 2013 at 10:21 pm

    My district has about 8,800 students, about 65% high needs. (The district hasn’t calculated the exact number yet).
    So our base grant will be about $7,500/student? Or do we get more for high school students?
    Our supplemental will be $1,740? or do we get 20% of the high school number for high school students?
    Our concentration grant would be somewhere around $200/student? That’s just a guesstimate based on what you’ve written elsewhere.
    That would give us about $9,500/student.
    The extra funds for high needs kids would be around $2,000 times 8,800 or about 17.5 million dollars to be accounted for with the county board of ed.
    Do I understand that we’ll need a new district-wide site council consisting entirely of parents to oversee this extra money? That this parent body would write a report to the county on how we have spent the money on high needs kids?

  6. John Fensterwald said

    on June 15, 2013 at 3:13 pm

    Jerry: The base grant will be grade-determined as follows, based on a new section to the Ed Code Section 42238.02:

    “(1) For the 2013–14 fiscal year, a base grant of:

    (A) Six thousand eight hundred forty-five dollars ($6,845) for average daily attendance in kindergarten and grades 1 to 3, inclusive.

    (B) Six thousand nine hundred forty-seven dollars ($6,947) for average daily attendance in grades 4 to 6, inclusive.

    (C) Seven thousand one hundred fifty-four dollars ($7,154) for average daily attendance in grades 7 and 8.

    (D) Eight thousand two hundred eighty-nine dollars ($8,289) for average daily attendance in grades 9 to 12, inclusive.”

    The 20 percent supplement will be based on the grade level base grant.

    There also will be 10.4 percent added to the K-3 base grant for class-size reduction. I don’t know if the 20 percent supplement is calculated on this additional amount as well.

    • navigio replied

      on June 15, 2013 at 3:27 pm

      Districts have to make progress toward 24 student classrooms to qualify for that CSR addition.

      • John Fensterwald replied

        on June 15, 2013 at 4:53 pm

        That’s true, navigio, but I believe that the measure of progress standard will take effect only on full implementation. Also, that standard can be waived if the local bargaining unit agrees.

    • Eric Premack replied

      on June 16, 2013 at 3:56 pm

      John: The 20 percent supplemental and 50 percent concentration grants are calculated based on (1) the base grants that John notes above, plus (2) the 10.4 percent add-on for grades K-3 and the 2.6 percent add-on for grades 9-12. I believe this is a change from the prior versions where the supplemental and concentration funds were a function of the base grant without the add-ons.

  7. Jerry Heverly said

    on June 15, 2013 at 11:59 pm

    So my high school will get $8,289.
    Plus $1,657 supplemental (20% of 8,289)
    Plus some concentration grant, maybe $200 or $300.

    That gets us around $10,150/high school student.

    We have about 2,500 students.
    We will be expected to spend about $5,000,000 for the benefit of high needs students (EL’s, foster youth, poor kids).

    The district will form a site council of parents to oversee the spending of the 5 million (plus another $12 million at the other schools in the district). They will write a report to be sent to the county board of education for review. If the county disapproves we’ll need to spend the money some other way.

    The new API system (which de-emphasizes test scores relative to the old API system) will give us some kind of score. If our high need students don’t improve their test scores to the liking of the county we will be sanctioned in some way?
    Did I get any of this right?

  8. Ed said

    on June 18, 2013 at 11:32 am

    “We are unconvinced that market-based approaches, sanctions and threats are the way to change systems,” said [Rick] Simpson, who helped negotiate the language of SB 91.”

    It’s easy to agree on two points of Mr. Simpson’s comment because we’ve tried them to no avail. But, to dismiss market-based approaches as he does demonstrates an ignorance of the myriad of random assignment studies that demonstrate positive results of market-based reforms even in the very limited applications that have been attempted in the U.S. K-12 system. The robust market-based system of higher education should be a model for K-12. But, alas, that would put consumers in charge of K-12 education and take control from the central planners in Sacramento.

    • navigio replied

      on June 18, 2013 at 12:46 pm

      One of the primary failures of market drive reform ideas is the assumption that the analogy works for education. I’ve already given myriad reasons why it doesnt, but much more generally, it seems there are certain types of community ‘services’ that never can be assumed to make a ‘profit’, at least not in the short-term (something that market forces requires), nor even i the traditional sense. If the differentiating factor upon which the market forces were based were actually quality or even quality of life, then maybe. Otherwise, certain things are simply ‘too expensive’ to have in our society when looked at from the traditional financial perspective.
      Paradigm shift required.

    • el replied

      on June 19, 2013 at 9:36 am

      Two important reasons that a market-based approach is quite different for higher ed is that those students have full autonomy over their lives and higher ed is voluntary.

      A kindergartener – or even a third grader – cannot decide for herself whether to attend the next grade at all or whether to attend school in Humboldt County, Alpine County, or Marin County. School is mandatory for these ages because experience shows that not all parents will elect to enroll their children in school if it is not.

      In addition, higher ed institutions have a great deal more control over what students they accept for a course of study. (Even at a community college, there are many classes with prerequisites.)

      Finally, I’d suggest that market forces only “work” in higher education under some criteria you might impose for the definition of “works” and not all, and part of the reason it does as well as it does is the lack of a hard timeline for when you must finish, another factor that is quite different from K-12 schooling.

  9. Ed said

    on June 18, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    You make the assumption that market reforms would need to exclude any government regulation or taxpayer support – that is a false choice, and often the rationale used to insulate K-12 from rational market reforms.

    First, K-12 is so over-regulated that there are almost no market forces in play (students compelled to attend, assigned to schools, teachers are very difficult to fire for poor performance – in short, K-12 does not have to compete on price or quality). No businesses operate like this, and very few gov’t services are so heavily regulated. For example we do not assign seniors to a specific hospital or doctor in their neighborhood to receive Medicare benefits. CalFresh restricts some the types of items that can be purchased, but it does not compel recipients to receive food at gov’t-owned soup kitchens or grocery stores. The question is not whether we should have “free markets” in K-12 education; the question is why we have embraced regulated markets in virtually every domain of our lives except K-12 education?

    Even within Education, we have pretty robust markets with large gov’t subsidies, as long as the students are not between ages 6-17 y.o. For example, we offer parents for children under 6 a tax credit for tuition to a preschool of their choice (public, private, secular or religious). For those older than 17 we offer Pell grants, Stafford loans, and Hope scholarships to subsidize attending the college of their choice. We also have open enrollment for CA Community Colleges.

    Is K-12 so unique that it has to be arranged differently than almost every other private, public, and even educational system? The simple answer is no. The truth is that the hostility toward K-12 markets is fueled by self-interest disguised as benevolent paternalism. In CA the K-12 public education system will consume approximately $68.3 billion for operations in 2012-13 (more under LCFF in 2013-14), and it employs approximately 560,000 adults – all of which constitutes a particularly powerful lobby for doing what almost nobody in the education community admits to themselves or to others, and that is placing the interest of adults ahead of the education of children. It is easier to rationalize away the need for market reforms than to admit that self-interest trumps what logically works in virtually every other aspect of life. This is a sad reality, but simply the truth.

    • navigio replied

      on June 18, 2013 at 5:46 pm

      The point is not whether k-12 should have to compete on price or quality, rather whether that is even possible.
      And the idea that it should ‘work’ in education merely because you think it works on other aspects of life is not a good enough reason. Primarily because it fails to ignore the differences between the nature of the needs of children and of society and those that other areas of our economic system ‘address’, but also because its clearly not a given that those things actually ‘work’, even there (especially when judged in terms of ‘quality’, but I don’t want to turn this into an economics discussion).
      The fact that you equate the needs of kids with the needs of adults makes it clear that your vision will gladly sacrifice the former in order to ‘deal with’ the latter, and by virtue of being unable to make that distinction. Note that is actually part of the problem.
      However, if you want to frame this in terms of adult interests, I can do that too. What you are talking about is simply trading the interests of one group of adults for another. The difference is that the current one has the interests of kids at heart, whereas you’d replace it with one that has money at heart. No thanks. Increasing diabetes and obesity and lowered standard of living make some people a lot of money. That doesn’t make them right.
      And finally, you could not be more wrong when you accuse me of hostility in the name of self-interest. Unless of course that self-interest is the desire to see kids succeed (I’m pretty sure that’s not what you meant).
      Clearly, you have not been paying attention.

  10. Ed said

    on June 18, 2013 at 3:18 pm

    @Jerry. Yes, you summed it up pretty well.

  11. Ed said

    on June 19, 2013 at 2:34 pm

    First, I did not offer my comments on self-interest as a critique of you personally. And, I apologize if it was taken that way, it was not my intention. I have read many things you have written and have no doubt that you care about kids.

    On the matter of not having a discussion of “economics” – that is impossible to do when you are talking about how you organize society to manage scarce resources to meet our needs. To evaluate the best way to organize our society to achieve the goal of educating children without understanding basic principles of economics and how it applies is a fools mission.

    Clearly, you and I do not share a common view of how the world works. I do not dispute your desire to see kids succeed, nor would I suggest you doubt mine. I would suggest however, that my approach focuses on giving control to the consumer (children, well technically their parents or guardians) and that creates a system more focused on serving the interests of kids.

    • el replied

      on June 19, 2013 at 3:24 pm

      The new rage towards standardized standards for every school in every corner of the nation of course is anti-market. :-) If we want to be market based, shouldn’t I be able to choose a school that delays reading instruction until 2nd grade and teaches all the kids to knit? (I’m not dissing that by the way, I’m pointing out that many people DO choose that and that it’s directly at odds with the Common Core.) What about a school that does all its instruction in a language other than English? What about a school that doesn’t subject its kids to standardized tests?

      I have yet to meet anyone who truly is willing to let the market pick any winners it wants.

      That said, I do personally think it’s valuable to allow students to untie from their local school and choose another if the family wishes with a minimum of difficulty. There are many reasons a student might benefit from a different school (that are independent, actually, of the perceived “quality” of each campus) and funding that follows the child to any public school is part of that. In my area, most schools do have some extra capacity and it is relatively possible to transfer among schools or districts as the family desires.

    • navigio replied

      on June 19, 2013 at 4:55 pm

      Thanks, I appreciate that you recognize that about me and apologies for responding from the personal point of view. I do still think its valid to point out that treating that hostility as coming from a place of self-interest (even if not for me) can be misguided, and probably means how you address the issue with others can miss the mark (perhaps its instructive to separate individuals from groups, such as bargaining ones). I think its much easier to ‘fall’ for a position if one assumes the other side is disingenuous. Note your request that I treat you equally non-judgementally.

      My hesitation to move into an economics discussion was not intended to imply that anyone lacks the understanding of basic principles, rather that the nature of economics is extremely complex and I believe there is a whole underlying discussion surrounding the fundamental goals that would need to be had before even delving into the educational aspects. That is probably not only too much of a sidebar for this forum, but there will be a lot of disagreement even at that level.

      That said, I cant resist. :-)

      You mention two points which are probably useful to point out how relative these discussions can be. The first is a world of ‘scarce resources’. While this is true on a global scale, its clearly not true on a local one (best example is our culture of excess, even internal variations). Even mentioning scarce resources begs the perspective you use to approach this since there are many other ‘benefits’ of a market system (or even capitalism in general if that is where you are going). But if anything, our economic system has worked against providing an equitable share of those resources. Of course, that may be my fault for assuming equity is the goal. Its fair enough if its not, but we need to make it clear that would be the priority when applied to education as well. (maybe not necessarily a bad thing? our country was pretty much founded on this kind of differentiation, with equity only being in the eyes of the law)

      I also would like to discuss the nature of the ‘consumer’. First off, I am glad that you caveat the mention of children there. In reality, the direct ‘consumer’ is children, since they are who is in the classroom, but of course they are not who pays, so in that sense they are not a true consumer (they cant exert influence on the market process). More broadly, parents are the consumers, but often (and even more increasingly) they are also not who pays. Even though they can exert influence, the decisions made by parents usually have nothing to do with ‘quality’ (which I’m going to assume is your basic differentiator or goal). Then at some level, society is really the consumer, but even there, the ‘benefit’ they are paying for cannot be realized for literally decades. This probably makes the influence they exert rather capricious.

      Coming back to the nature of quality, for me one problem is that many people today see this simply as nothing more than color of skin. For others it may be based on parent education (though highly correlated with the former). Clearly, there is a very general idea of quality that parents have, but this can be a function of many things that have nothing to do with learning (though clearly it sometimes it can). I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listed to a group of parents talk in which one said, ‘so and so is a great teacher’ and another responded, ‘no, so and so is a horrible teacher’. How can that possibly be? And more importantly, what are those decisions based on?

      But I assume by quality we care about learning? But how do we measure learning? The current craze is standardized tests, even though this highly correlates with parent education level (as well as family income, and race or ethnicity). Is it really fair to define that as quality when the correlation is so absolute? In addition, standardized tests are limited to only a subset of things we think are most important and to the absolute exclusion of many things which we’ve assigned to the scarce resource category. A quick look at any school with means will show you what society believes kids should be getting, and this is something very different than what the current ‘quality metric based on learning measures’ is effecting.

      I could go on and on, and this is not even about economics yet. And its not even all the educational related thoughts. :-)

      In the end, I dont think I misunderstand how the world works, I think rather that I have different ideas about what I would like society to achieve (ie priorities). I wont claim that market forces are not effective, rather my concern is that they are even too effective, but at the mercy of human nature. In the end, that is probably one of the reasons regulation exists. The vast majority of people are not hard-core libertarians, so I think there is an expectation that some regulation must exist. The question then is probably more to what extent, and to counter what forces. As an example, I see teachers unions as playing exactly such a role, but many people find it impossible to see them as anything but self-serving lobbying groups. Even equating teachers with them.

      Lastly, I have a love-hate relationship with choice. Its great in concept, but horrible when the side-effect is a total lack of commitment to shared community interest and responsibility (which it has become in many places). Is the tradeoff worth it in a time where a school cannot succeed or even exist without community support?

      Anyway, sorry for the chaos…

  12. Ed said

    on June 19, 2013 at 4:04 pm

    el, I agree with you. In a perfect world, we would adopt state standards (aligned with those common ones, if we desire), require a measure of learning based upon those standards, and then make that information available to parents. The state should then get out of the way and allow schools to thrive (or not thrive) in that environment. If the parents choose a school for their child purely on the outcome of the tests (i.e. academic success), then good for them. If a parent chooses a school with a different pedagogical approach that doesn’t preform well on those standards for reasons they think are best, then good for them. Perhaps a school more committed to arts would suit their needs, but not produce well in on assessments, and that is fine with me. I would never presume to tell every parent exactly what their child needs to thrive and succeed (how ever one defines that) in life. The central planners will though… watch as they argue over how much balance there should be between CTE and college prep, etc. If parents (and by the high school age, hopefully students) had more choice in where they received their education, it would produce schools that meet both of those needs based upon demand by the customers / students. Huh, sounds a little like the post-secondary environment now doesn’t it?

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