Funding education: States struggle with dollars & control

Pegging off the special session in Olympia, Andrew Ujifusa has a good overview of state-local challenges in funding the public schools. His Education Week story identifies the fundamental tension between the funders and the funded.

As states like Washington look at how to overhaul their funding formulas to smooth out inequities, there’s a corresponding tension between state officials and local K-12 leaders about the strings that come along with greater support for some districts.

“What the districts really want is the increased commitment without increased control. But that’s not going to happen,” said Michael Griffith, the senior school finance analyst for the Denver-based Education Commission of the States. “Now I hear it constantly [from state lawmakers]: We’re willing to spend more money, but we want to know what we’re going to get for our money.”

That captures the current arguments here surrounding compensation policy and various accountability reforms. The brief article should be read in its entirety.

The News Tribune editorial board today weighs in on the link between local levies and teacher compensation

The Legislature cannot pretend to achieve equality in education unless it disentangles teacher pay from local school levies. Pumping more state money into the system as a whole is not enough if it locks in the relative advantages of wealthy districts.

Something like the proposed “levy swap” – in which some of the school money now being collected and spent by districts is instead collected and distributed by the state – seems the only path to fairness.

As the editorial says, swapping local dollars for state dollars has “proven fiendishly difficult” for lawmakers. But it’s the challenge of the day, one that cannot be ducked under the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision.