Home > Uncategorized > Don’t Like the Term “Voucher”? How About if It’s Called “Student Centered Funding”? Would THAT Change Your Mind?

Don’t Like the Term “Voucher”? How About if It’s Called “Student Centered Funding”? Would THAT Change Your Mind?

In a world where “branding” is crucial, if your organization’s name is tainted because it is associated with a failed Presidential candidate you can change it and no one will notice and, more importantly, you can change the name of the product it is selling to make it more acceptable. A link in yesterday’s Politico offers an illustration where both of these things happened. The link leads to ExcelinEd’s recently released report on something called “student-centered state funding“. The new name of the organization and the newly coined term “student-centered” idea didn’t fool this blogger. And I doubt that it will fool many progressive educators, but it might fool some legislators or give them some cover when they try to use Jeb Bush’s ideas from Florida to introduce vouchers into their state.

ExcelinEd is the new brand for the “…education reform group Foundation for Excellence in Education“, which was founded by former Florida Governor and failed Presidential candidate Jeb Bush, who ruined Florida’s once decent school systems by introducing deregulated for profit charter schools that he and the GOP in that state claimed would dramatically improve schools. Unsurprisingly, deregulated for profit charter schools did not boost test scores… but they DID introduce lots of profiteering and corporate corruption.

The mechanism for deregulated for profit charter schools in Florida also paved the way for vouchers… but since the term “vouchers” seems to have some baggage, ExcelinEd has come up with a new phrase to promote vouchers: “student centered state funding”.

There are two big ideas behind “student centered state funding”. The first is to abandon the antiquated and cumbersome term “adequacy” and replace it with “efficacy”. As the ExcelinEd report indicates:

Too often, debates about state education funding focus solely on how much money should be provided to school districts—or what is termed adequate funding. Far too little attention is paid to an equally or more important question: How can states maximize the impact of existing funding? While state policymakers often know how much in total is spent on education, they rarely know how much of the intended funding is actually being spent on individual students, many of whom have specific needs and challenges…

Addressing this issue means reframing the debate about state education funding, moving from questions about adequacy to addressing the efficacy of state funding models. A powerful means for ensuring the efficacy of state education dollars is student-centered funding.

A close reading of the rationale for this shift is that by changing the debate from the amount of money available to schools to “spend on individual students” they can presumably sidestep pesky provisions in their state constitutions that require an adequate level of funding without precisely defining what that term means. And that phrase about “money being spent on individual students” is not accidental. According to some tight-fisted ideologues, money spent to improve teachers wages and working conditions is NOT “money being spent on individual students”…it is money going to the adults in the school whose task is to teach students.

The second big idea behind “student centered state funding” is that parents can use the funds earmarked for their child to enroll them in whatever school they choose. Here are the “key advantages” of student centered funding as described in the ExcelinEd report:

There are several key advantages to student-centered funding. ➜ First, it is more transparent. It is clear and easy to understand how much funding each district gets and why. ➜ Second, it empowers districts. District leaders have flexibility to use funds to meet the unique needs of their students. ➜ Third, it empowers parents. Parents can choose the district that is best for their children, with the money fully following their students.➜ Finally, it is fairer. All students in your state get the same base resources, with additional funding for students with special needs or disadvantages.

Calling this de facto voucher system “student centered state funding” is disingenuous at best. And the five step process for introducing this system makes no mention of how to handle cases where parents might chose a religiously affiliated schools, how this would work in New England States where towns are separated by geographical features that preclude “choice” and towns— not states— are the primary source of funding and towns want to maintain a public school in their communities even if it requires them to pay a premium per pupil rate.

“Student centered state funding” works on a spread sheet in a state like Florida… but in virtually every other state it would be impossible for parents to exercise “choice” unless they enrolled in religiously affiliated schools, virtual academies (assuming broadband was available), or charter chain schools. But those caveats may be a feature…

 

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