Review Finds Both Strengths and Weaknesses in Weighted Student Funding Report

Fordham Institute’s “Fund the Ohio Child” report takes measured approach but falls short in use of research to support its claims

Contact: Teri Battaglieri, (517) 203-2940;
Bruce D. Baker, (785) 864-9844;

EAST LANSING, Mich.(April 7, 2008) — A  new report from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute advocates for decentralized control of public schools, weighted student funding and school choice. A review of this report finds that it is of higher quality than past reports on the topic, but falls short in its failure to use any relevant, empirical research that might provide policy makers with useful insights.

The report, Fund the Child: Bringing Equity, Autonomy and Portability to Ohio School Finance, was published by the Fordham Institute. It was reviewed for the Think Twice Project by Professor Bruce Baker of the University of Kansas.

The report is the latest in a series which argues that state funding should follow children to the public schools (rather than the districts) of their choice; that per-pupil funding amounts should be weighted according to children’s individual needs and circumstances; and that schools should have flexibility in how they spend the funds they receive. A major goal of these proposals is to end funding disparities within and between districts.

Professor Baker credits the report because it “avoids bold but unfounded claims that research has found decentralized governance to necessarily lead to improved student outcomes.” And he has praise for its “much more measured approach toward recommendations for implementing the reform,” primarily its suggestion that states carefully and methodically phase in the proposal.

“However, the current report continues to fall short in its application of, or even reference to, relevant peer-reviewed policy research, or rigorous empirical analysis that might provide useful insights to policymakers,” Baker writes. “In particular, the report overlooks several studies presenting alternative methods for evaluating cost variation across school settings and children that might aid in the design of better weighted student funding formulas.” Moreover, Baker points to clear inequities in the weighted student formula system already in place in Cincinnati, highlighting that the reform could easily replicate existing funding problems.

Nevertheless, Baker concludes, this new report “takes important steps forward from previous reports” promoting weighted student funding.

Find the complete review by Bruce Baker as well as a link to the Fordham Institute’s report at:

About the Think Tank Review Project
The Think Twice project provides the public, policy makers and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected think tank publications. It is a collaboration of the Education Policy Studies Laboratory at Arizona State University and the Education and the Public Interest Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder and is funded by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.


The mission of the Great Lakes Center is to improve public education for all students in the Great Lakes region through the support and dissemination of high quality, academically sound research on education policy and practices.

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