Today at the Center for American Progress, five distinguished panelists discussed and debated the weighted student formula—a proposal offered by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.
The proposal calls for dramatic changes in financing for the public education system. The weighted student formula addresses current imbalances in school funding by reallocating educational spending based on the needs of students.
The panel at today’s event was composed of former Secretary of Education Rod Paige, former San Francisco superintendent Arlene Ackerman, Center for American Progress president John Podesta, and Michael Rebell, executive director of the Campaign for Educational equity.
Every panelist acknowledged that America’s educational system is, in the words of Secretary Paige, “plagued by inequity,” and that a more just distribution of funds is necessary to improve public school systems. Arlene Ackerman noted that children “who have the least, get the least” in terms of education. Statistics showing a nine hundred dollar per student disparity in education funding between the highest and lowest poverty school districts confirm this claim. Cynthia Brown blamed these funding inequalities on government inertia, the high costs of teacher salaries, and “savvy schools” that receive a disproportionate amount of money.
The weighted student formula distributes education funds based on student need. John Podesta gave his full support to this proposal, saying it would “spend money effectively on kids that need it the most.” Michael Rebell disagreed, arguing that the proposal was a smokescreen to distract attention from funding problems, advance school voucher programs, and decrease school funding litigation. Arlene Ackerman vigorously defended the formula, citing the progress of San Francisco schools, and declaring that its implementation would mean greater school choice and a “level playing field” for all students, regardless of income.
Secretary Paige and Arlene Ackerman both warned that although the proposal should be accepted, it is not a “silver bullet” to the educational system’s problems. In their opinion, equally distributing existing resources among students in an effective manner is just as important as increasing the funds themselves.