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Systemic District Change & School Funding: Guiding Principles for State School Finance Systems

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Today, the Connecticut School Finance Project released a new report examining how statewide school finance systems can be developed to meet the resource needs of schools of the future, and support public school districts implementing, or seeking to implement, approaches to systemic educational change.

The full report, with an executive summary, can be found at http://ctschoolfinance.org/assets/uploads/files/Systemic-District-Change-and-School-Funding.pdf.

When developing a statewide school finance system that seeks to distribute state education dollars equitably and transparently, it is not only necessary to analyze financial and demographic data such as district expenditures, state and local revenues, community wealth factors, and student enrollment and learning needs, it is also necessary to attempt to consider the resource needs of the schools of the future, and determine how to best support how educators project classrooms, schools, and districts will evolve. This is particularly important because major overhauls in state school finance systems by state legislative bodies tend to happen only once every 20-30 years.

It is also important, when designing a statewide school finance system, to ensure resources are available to schools and districts to implement a variety of educational approaches, and that schools and districts have the resources they need to redefine and redesign classroom instruction to meet the needs of students in an ever-changing society.

Based on a literature review of topics related to systemic change, school finance, and student-centered learning, along with 20 structured interviews conducted with district leaders, school leaders, and state policymakers from Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont, this report identifies five guiding principles for designing statewide school finance systems that will support systemic change at the district-level.

  1. Funding Must be Flexible
  2. Funding Must be Stable and Predictable
  3. Funding Must be Sufficient and Equitably Distributed
  4. Funding Must Consider the Learning Needs of Students
  5. Funding Must be Provided to Support Innovation and Start-up Expenses

Included with each guiding principle in the report is a review of the relevant academic literature, identified themes from the structured interviews, and illustrative examples of interview participants’ experiences.

Taken together, these guiding principles provide an outline for states across the United States, not just New England, for designing school finance systems that support systemic changes and ensure resources are available for schools and districts to implement a variety of educational approaches to meet the needs of students today and in the future.

We hope you find this report both helpful and informative. Should you have any questions or comments regarding this report and/or any of its findings, please email us at info@ctschoolfinance.org.