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Bruce Baker, (732) 932-7496, x8232,
Dan Quinn, (517) 203-2940,

Weighing in on California School Finance Reform

Recent Brief's Argument for ‘Weighted Funding' is Lacking in Evidentiary Support

EAST LANSING, Mich. (June 18, 2013) – The Reason Foundation recently issued a brief on California Gov. Jerry Brown's school finance reform plan, which endorses Brown's proposal and then uses it to advance additional preferences. Yet, neither the endorsement of Brown's plan, nor the call for revising it are grounded in any data.

Bruce Baker, a school finance expert at Rutgers University, reviewed the brief for the Think Twice think tank review project, published by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

Weighted Student Funding for California, by Lisa Snell of the Reason Foundation, praises Gov. Brown's school finance reform plan, which would replace the state's current school funding system of restricted categorical grants with a system that uses cost adjustment factors tied primarily to students' income and English learner (ELL) status.

The report also advocates modifying Brown's proposal, to link the state funds to individual children, so that "money follows the child" regardless of which school he or she is enrolled in. Among other things, this removes spending discretion from school districts and grants a great deal more autonomy to school principals.

The report argues that revising Brown's plan in accord with the Reason Foundation's recommendations has the potential to more equitably distribute funding across local public school districts. "Yet no data are presented or evaluated to support these claims," according to Baker, and the report provides little to support its assertions that such system is more equitable, more efficient, or more transparent.

"The report instead offers a highly filtered summary of existing literature on the efficacy of weighted student funding for improving educational equity or school quality," Baker writes. "While many would concur that California's funding system is in disrepair, the Reason report offers little precise or valuable guidance for policymakers."

Find Bruce Baker's review on the Great Lakes Center website:

Find Weighted Student Funding for California, by Lisa Snell, on the web:

Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), provides the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is made possible with support from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

This review is also found on the NEPC website:


The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.

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