School funding formula called doomed to fail; problem is in classroom, not cash, professor says
Illinois passed historic education funding reform in late August, but the foundation upon which it is built is faulty and doomed to collapse, Hoover Institute fellow and Stanford University Prof. Eric Hanushek said on the “Illinois Rising” radio program recently.
“It sounds good to use evidence to make these decisions, but there is nothing in the funding formula that insists or encourages the districts to even follow the programs that lead up to the expenses in the evidence-based model,” Hanushek said. “So, this is just a way of deciding how much money should be doled out, but it’s not a way of deciding how to run schools or how to get more achievement out of the kids.”
Hanushek, who wrote extensively on the failures of evidence-based funding in his 2007 paper, “Confidence Men: Selling Adequacy, Making Millions,” asserted that Illinois’ problems are not with funding.
“Illinois’ problem is one of school performance, not of lack of money,” he said. “Illinois is in the top quarter in the states in terms of how much they spend per pupil, but it is right around the middle in terms of performance of students.”
Part of the reason for the state’s – and the country’s - poor academic performance problem can be traced to the strong teacher unions that protect poor and ineffective teachers, Hanushek claimed.
“It’s perhaps one of the reasons why the U.S. is lagging in terms of performance compared to other international competitors,” he said. “Our schools are not up to par of many others in the world in part because we let poor teachers stay in the classroom for a long period of time.”
Illinois should follow the funding system in Washington, D.C., which rewards progress in the classroom, Hanushek argued.
“They are focused on what is really important and that is the quality of instructions, the quality of the teachers,” he said. “They have put in place a funding model that is designed to reward teachers who do well in the classroom and doesn’t reward bad performances. In fact, they tend to fire teachers that, over a period of time, show that they are completely ineffective.”
Illinois' funding measure, Senate Bill 1947, was a compromise that is meant to fund schools across the state in a fair and equitable way. State aid will be prioritized to schools that are most in need, and a hold-harmless clause guarantees funding meeting or exceeding the previous year's amount.
Chicago Public Schools (CPS) will also receive roughly $450 million more than expected from previous education proposals, and the bill contains a provision to give $75 million in tax credits to donors to scholarships that help low-income students attend private schools.
The new funding system is estimated to cost the state $3.5 to $6 billion over the next 10 years.