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#AskExcelinEd: How Can States Make Students the Center of School Funding?

• Matthew Joseph

As another school year begins across the country, states can consider how they can make students the center of their school funding systems and drive improved outcomes and greater equity.

3 Ways to Put Students at the Center of Education Funding

1. State Level Student-Centered Funding

First, states can ensure that the funding that goes to school districts is student-centered. Right now, big blocks of funding in many states are locked into specific districts, programs, services and staffing positions. When a student moves from one district to another, only a portion of funding follows. This creates major inequities and perpetuates antiquated instructional models. ExcelinEd has a guide on how states can meaningfully increase the proportion of funding that is student-centered. One first step is to undertake a student-centered funding audit, something ExcelinEd did this year in New Hampshire and South Carolina.

2. School Level Financial Transparency

Second, states can ensure that funding follows students when they move from school to school. States typically fund districts, not schools. Once funding arrives at districts, they decide which schools get resources. Serious inequities can exist within districts, and the funding states intend for students with special needs and disadvantages may never reach those students. States can provide incentives for districts to allocate funding to schools more fairly. States can also expose this problem by requiring school-level financial transparency. For a deeper dive, check out ExcelinEd’s model policy.

3. Performance-Based Funding

Finally, states can reward schools whose students perform well. That way high-performing schools have an incentive to serve more students. ExcelinEd developed a modeling tool to show how states can design performance funding so that it is affordable, predictable and equitable. It shows how performance funding can result in significant improvements in student outcomes, particularly for disadvantaged students. Consistent with this design, Texas recently adopted performance funding, with significantly more funding when schools succeed with low-income students.

About the author

Matthew Joseph

Matthew is Policy Director for Education Funding Reform for the Foundation for Excellence in Education. Matthew previously worked as a Senior Program Officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, spearheading a national initiative to improve strategic use of resources in public education. He also served as Executive Director of Advocates for Children and Youth, where he led successful efforts to improve education and other services in Maryland. He also worked as a Senior Associate at the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Matthew received his Bachelor’s from Harvard University and a JD from the University of Maryland School of Law.