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Educators Consider Radical Changes in School Funding

Educators Consider Radical Changes in School Funding

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- State educators are toying with ideas for radical changes in how school funds are disbursed, such as paying more for certain students and possibly having funds go directly to principals instead of districts.

At a meeting of the Legislature's Education Interim Committee last week, state schools Superintendent Patti Harrington briefly mentioned the possibility of changing the per-pupil funding formula.

Right now, school districts get $2,182 per student from the state, but the state Board of Education staff is investigating different funding options.

"Different students need different amounts of support," she said. "It holds promise to address the needs of students and ensure greater equity."

For example, schools might receive more money for students coming from poverty.

It also could be tied to academic progress, motivating districts to do better, Harrington said.

Attaching funding directly to students and giving the money in part or in whole to local school principals instead of districts is being tried in some areas, including Seattle and San Francisco.

"It empowers principals to make local decisions," Harrington said. "They can get after student achievement factors more readily."

It isn't clear yet if it would be better to give money directly to schools that can then buy district services or continue to have districts allocate funds with a new per-student formula.

"That's the most important part of the discussion ahead of us," Harrington said. "We have to decide how much schools can run on their own and how much district support is needed."

Since the idea is in such early stages, the state hasn't solicited opinions from schools or districts yet. Many haven't even heard of the idea.

Davis Superintendent Bryan Bowles said his district already tries to give funding based on student need.

"Everyone always talks about equity," he said. "It doesn't mean give equal amounts per person, it means providing enough money to give equal access to education."

Whether it be a student who needs glasses or help in reading, the district uses some weighted-pupil-unit funding to add programs at schools where there is need, he said.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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