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Press Release · June 27, 2001

Fund Schools Based on Need? Provocative Ideas Emerge from New Report

Providing funding to schools based on the individual needs of school districts is a policy option that state officials should consider, according to a newly released report by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC). The concept of need-based financing has gained prominence in education circles in recent years and bucks this state’s decades-old practice of allocating equal funding to all schools despite differences in performance, resources, and physical conditions. Such a reform would necessitate greater autonomy for local school districts in deciding how to meet statewide academic standards.

The wide-ranging analysis explores a variety of new ways to finance and govern the state’s troubled school system. “We conducted this research to help state lawmakers with the daunting task of transforming the state’s K-12 system into one that is efficiently governed and has the funding support it needs to provide a quality education,” says economist Jon Sonstelie, co-editor and contributing author. The Joint Committee to Develop a Master Plan for Education – Kindergarten Through University was established by the legislature in 1999 to develop a broad framework for reforming the state’s K-12 school system. PPIC prepared the report School Finance and California’s Master Plan for Education at the request of the joint committee’s co-chair, Senator Dede Alpert.

Key recommendations:

  • California can and should learn more from the experiences of other states. Oregon’s Quality Education Model and Texas’s system for tracking student achievement are especially worthy of consideration.
  • The roles of state and local government in education policymaking must be clearly defined. Sonstelie recommends that the state set standards for school performance, while local school districts determine how to best meet those standards.
  • Local revenue options for funding schools – such as reconfiguring the state property tax to allow districts to raise additional money for specific local needs – should be explored.

Please call Victoria Pike Bond at 415/291-4412 or Abby Cook at 415/291-4436 for assistance or further information.

The Public Policy Institute of California is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to objective, nonpartisan research on economic, social, and political issues that affect the lives of Californians. The Institute was established in 1994 with an endowment from William R. Hewlett.