Location: LSB A
Colorado's Current Finance and Funding System: At-risk, Categorical, Studen
LEGISLATIVE INTERIM COMMITTEE ON SCHOOL FINANCE
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01:13 PM -- Colorado's Current Finance and Funding System: Categorical Program Funding
The consultants led committee in a discussion of categorical program funding in the school finance model. Specifics were provided on special education, gifted and talented, English language learners, transportation, career & technical education, small attendance centers, expelled and at risk student services and comprehensive health education, and the Colorado Preschool Program funding (CPP is part of the school finance formula). Senator Zenzinger asked if the amount of funding has a rational basis for calculating categorical funding. Consultants remarked that this isn't rationally based in any system, let alone in Colorado's. These conversations almost always start with "what amount to we have available? and... How will this be allocated?" but there isn't a logical or case based formula for determining the amount spent in any given category. Committee talked briefly about the Colorado Pre School program and the research link between access to high quality early learning and positive impacts in later grades.
Consultants than talked a bit about the expenditure level for each of the categorical programs.
01:37 PM Colorado's Current Finance and Funding System: per-pupil student based allocation
Mike Goetz discussed student based formulas or allocations. Colorado is similar to other states in that we base allocation on the count of various groups, for example at risk, ELL, etc. A different way to conceptualize this is with student centered allocation. Student centered allocation looks first at individual characteristics and then funds each at a given amount. This process calculates the total funding based on these student characteristics, instead of attaching weights against a base amount. This shifts the focus to how much is available for allocation. A student centered formula looks at the various per ingredient cost where "ingredients" are: base + personnel costs + at risk + ELL + SPED + etc., etc., to arrive at an allocation amount. Each ingredient has a fixed dollar amount and a given student receives that amount of funding for each ingredient that describes him or her. Using a comparison of weighting base vs setting per dollar amounts for allocation demonstrated how Colorado might change their weighted allocation method to a student centered method.
The committee discussed the issue of adequacy in categorical program funding.
The consultants discussed how a student based allocation system enhances transparency and also allows for better collection of data that can inform discussions of cost benefits or return on investment of the school finance system. Another reason these systems are popular is that it enhances the building principal autonomy and building based accounting; local control also dictates how the dollar is used, but this type of system can provide autonomy to principals and schools. The model may have some expectations as to how money is spent, but in local control states or systems, districts don't always spend the money in the way the formula anticipates. In Wyoming, for example, resources for block grants were provided with certain intent; however, districts chose to either increase teachers pay, reduce class size, or incur other expenditures not typically included for those purposes.
California has moved to a weighted student centered funding model, however, once the school gets this money, they aren't allocating them in the same way as the system intended the money to be spent. This dynamic becomes a governance question, testing the relationship between the state and the districts. One takeaway is that autonomy and local control are political questions that must be balanced with a funding system. The way money is calculated and allocated are separate issues from autonomy and how funding is eventually spent. Those are important conversations and considerations, however, the current focus of this interim committee is only on systems for allocating funding for schools. The consultants made the point again that student centered systems elevate both transparency in how money is allocated and helps inform questions of equity and adequacy since allocations are overt, have a specific dollar amount associated (instead of weighting a base amount to determine those dollar amounts) and allows for better comparisons and better understanding of adequacy and equity across schools and districts.