Virtual School Meanderings

May 4, 2022

Report Promoting a ‘Money Follows the Child’ Funding System Lacks Rigorous Analysis

A “Think Twice” review of a think tank report from the folks at the National Education Policy Center.

May 3, 2022

Contact:
Michelle Renée Valladares: (720) 505-1958, michelle.valladares@colorado.edu
Bruce D. Baker: (848) 932-0698, bruce.baker@gse.rutgers.edu

Report Promoting a ‘Money Follows the Child’ Funding System Lacks Rigorous Analysis

An NEPC Review funded by the Great Lakes Center

Key Takeaway: Report’s conclusions based on a selective review of literature and false assumptions.

EAST LANSING, MI (May 3, 2022) – In recent years, supporters of school choice have promoted school finance reforms sometimes called “backpack funding,” but also called “money follows the child” or “student-based budgeting.” Whatever the term used, the idea is facilitate choice by attaching a funded amount to each student, with that payment following the students to their chosen schools.

A recent version of this proposal is found in a new report from the Mackinac Center, which provides a six-part recommendation for changes to Michigan’s current approach to financing public and charter schools. The report’s overarching theme, which is examined in a new review, is to move toward a system where more funding follows the student to either public, charter, or private schools—or to other service providers.

Bruce Baker of Rutgers University reviewed From School Aid to Student Aid: Modernizing K-12 Funding in Michigan, and found it to provide some useful, albeit insufficiently researched, guidance on shifting categorical funding into core funding and modifying the state’s approach to financing programs for children with disabilities.

Yet Professor Baker also describes how the report mischaracterizes literature on whether school finance reforms matter for school quality, and on the benefits of school district consolidation. The report also fails to recognize the various factors that affect the costs of providing children equal educational opportunity. Further, it largely ignores the realities and constraints of how schools and school systems work and how annual budget planning and resource allocation work toward efficiently providing high-quality educational services to children, regardless of sector or location.

Accordingly, Professor Baker concludes, key elements of the report and its proposals are built on false promises and assumptions and are not helpful for policymakers.

Find the review, by Bruce D. Baker, at:
https://www.greatlakescenter.org

Find From School Aid to Student Aid: Modernizing K-12 Funding in Michigan, written by Ben DeGrow and published by the Mackinac Center, at:
https://www.mackinac.org/S2022-01

NEPC Reviews (http://thinktankreview.org) provide the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. NEPC Reviews are made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice: https://www.greatlakescenter.org

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), a university research center housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: http://nepc.colorado.edu/

About The Great Lakes Center
The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform. Visit the Great Lakes Center Web Site at: https://www.greatlakescenter.org. Follow us on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/greatlakescent. Find us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/GreatLakesCenter.

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The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.

Visit the Great Lakes Center website at https://www.greatlakescenter.org/

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