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Weighing in on California School Finance Reform
Recent Brief’s Argument for ‘Weighted Funding’ is Lacking in Evidentiary Support
William J. Mathis, (802) 383-0058, firstname.lastname@example.org
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BOULDER, CO (June 18, 2013) – The Reason Foundation’s recent brief on California Gov. Jerry Brown’s school finance reform plan endorses Brown’s proposal and then uses it to advance additional preferences for reducing the role of school districts and for giving school principals greater autonomy over spending. Yet according to a new review, neither the endorsement of Brown’s plan, nor the call for revising it, are grounded in any data or sufficiently supported by existing research.
The report was reviewed for the Think Twice think tank review project by Bruce Baker, a school finance expert at Rutgers University. The review is published today by the National Education Policy Center, housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education.
Weighted Student Funding for California, by Lisa Snell of the Reason Foundation, praises Brown’s school finance reform plan, which would replace the state’s current school funding system of restricted categorical grants with a system that uses cost adjustment factors tied primarily to students’ income and English learner status.
The Reason report also advocates modifying Brown’s proposal, to link the state funds to individual children, so that “money follows the child” regardless of which school he or she is enrolled in. Among other things, this removes spending discretion from school districts and grants a great deal more autonomy to school principals.
The report argues that revising the Brown plan in accord with Reason’s recommendations has the potential to more equitably distribute funding across local public school districts. “Yet no data are presented or evaluated to support these claims,” according to Baker, and the report provides little to support its assertions that such a system is more equitable, more efficient, or more transparent.
“The report instead offers a highly filtered summary of existing literature on the efficacy of weighted student funding for improving educational equity or school quality,” Baker writes. “While many would concur that California’s funding system is in disrepair, the Reason report offers little precise or valuable guidance for policymakers.”
Find Bruce Baker’s review on the NEPC website at:
Find Weighted Student Funding for California, by Lisa Snell, on the web at:
The Think Twice think tank review project (
) of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) provides the public, policy makers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. NEPC is housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education. The Think Twice think tank review project is made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.
The mission of the National Education Policy Center is to produce and disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. We are guided by the belief that the democratic governance of public education is strengthened when policies are based on sound evidence. For more information on the NEPC, please visit
This brief is also found on the GLC website at
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