Intra-district Resource Allocation and Criteria Used for Student Based Funding in Urban School Districts

Resource allocation to school sites in public school districts is inequitable. While Student Based Funding (SBF) has been implemented in several major urban school districts, there are few empirical studies about how SBF policies are derived and implemented. Current efforts to align resources with student need are hindered by a lack of systematic, research-based approaches to selecting and prioritizing criteria. How do district leaders determine funding criteria, weight them, and evaluate their implementation? This study analyzed criteria, data, and weighting processes used to allocate resources to schools through student based funding. Districts studied were in Cincinnati, Ohio, Seattle, Washington, San Francisco, California, and Oakland, California. Using publicly available data, the researcher performed cross-case analyses of the student criteria used to allocate resources to schools in four school districts using student based funding (SBF). The analyses borrowed three equity concepts from inter-district studies to evaluate intra-district criteria for resource allocations: horizontal equity, vertical equity, and equal educational opportunity. Criteria used were evaluated by whether they were mandated or discretionary. Findings from this study were that governance structures, budgeting, policy, and percentages of general purpose funding varied between districts, yet mandated and discretionary funding occurred after base funding was done. Weighted index values were chosen by district officials and assigned a dollar value, yet there was no evidence of how the percentages were determined. Three of the four districts budgeted for average teacher salary and weighted student needs at each school. Oakland differed by budgeting for actual teacher salaries the percentage of students with particular needs at each school. Some districts used well-established indices, but translation of indices into dollar values appeared to be based on district officials' judgment. Recommendations from this study are that district leaders a) recognize the role of governance in allocating resources, b) establish research-based decision-making processes to rank discretionary budget allocation and link funding to best practices, and c) establish systematic weighting processes that create equitable distribution of teacher salaries.