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Funding What Really Matters: New Education Financial Modeling Tool for Policymakers


• Matthew Joseph

When you want to get results, you measure outcomes instead of inputs. And education is no exception.

Across states, there is a growing interest in funding the outcomes of education, as opposed to the inputs. For many, it is more sensible to pay for what really matters: outcomes in terms of student performance and success, as opposed to inputs like seat-time.

This approach also allows districts the freedom to innovate. For example, in a mastery-based system, students demonstrate mastery at varying paces. Meanwhile, seat-time funding provides no incentive to let students accelerate or take extra time.

As I speak to state policymakers about education funding, they instinctively feel that linking some funding to student performance will incentivize better outcomes and promote innovation. Yet, they worry about two issues.

  1. Will performance funding explode the budget or create wild financial fluctuations?
  2. Will it unfairly take money away from schools that have less advantaged students?

To help policymakers begin to explore these two important questions, and to understand performance funding better, ExcelinEd developed and is now pleased to release three resources.

The first is a framework on performance funding. It explores why performance is worth considering and the various ways it can be configured. To help with framework, we were very fortunate to work with Dr. Larry Miller, the nation’s foremost thinker on performance funding in K-12 education.

The second resource is a tool that models performance funding for an entire state. It allows policymakers to make various design decisions and then shows whether performance funding will cost more and what the financial impact will be for schools with at-risk students. (This is the first iteration of a tool that we will improve based on feedback.)

The third is an issue brief that describes some early findings, based on the tool, on the critical questions of affordability and equity. As described in the issue brief, performance funding can be done without causing budgetary chaos. One feature the tool highlights is using a capped performance funding pool, which limits financial exposure each year. The brief also shows a way to address the needs of at-risk students, by providing extra funding when schools succeed with these students.

These resources are just the beginning of a longer conversation that ExcelinEd will have over the upcoming months with policymakers and others interested in incentivizing better outcomes, providing flexibility to innovate and addressing the needs of all students equitably.

ExcelinEd stands at the ready to work with policymakers as they consider these issues in the specific contexts of their states.


About the author


Matthew Joseph

MatthewJ@ExcelinEd.org

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.