ConnCAN report makes false claims, harms low-income students
New review finds "Spend Smart: Fix Our Broken School Funding System" report of little value for policymaking
EAST LANSING, Mich. (Apr. 14, 2011) - A report on school funding in Connecticut public schools unfairly boosts charter schools and would divert funding from low-income students, according to an independent review released today.
The Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN) recently released a study claiming the Connecticut system for financing public schools should be reformed by adopting an overly simplified, weighted formula that allows money to follow a student to his or her school of choice. Legislation (SB 1195) has also been introduced in the Connecticut Legislature based on the flawed principles outlined in this report.
A thorough review of the ConnCAN study was conducted by Bruce Baker, associate professor in the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University and a member of the editorial boards of The Journal of Education Finance and Education Finance and Policy. Baker's review revealed the ConnCAN report is largely devoid of substantiated facts and includes patently false assertions. According to Baker, the ConnCAN report's findings would lead to substantial funding disparities for low-income students and be a boon for charter schools, which serve few of Connecticut's lowest-income children and children who are English-language learners (ELL).
The review was produced by the National Education Policy Center with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.
ConnCAN's report fails to prove that a weighted student funding formula would improve equity among public schools, according to Baker. The study also overlooks a vast amount of literature on student need-based costs, which suggest that schools with a large percentage of ELL students or in high-poverty districts may require additional funds to ensure student success.
ConnCAN's flawed funding formula includes only one adjustment for student need - shares of children qualifying for free or reduced lunch. The ConnCAN report ignores many other sources of need, such as English-language proficiency, Baker notes. ConnCAN's report inaccurately argues that only one measure of student need is required, due to a correlation between ELL enrollment and low-income enrollment. When reviewing the correlation between ELL students and subsidized lunches, Baker found that it was far too weak to be adequately addressed by a single adjustment for student need.
In addition to incorrectly categorizing ELL students with students who receive subsidized lunches, the ConnCAN report also uses an inaccurate poverty threshold that fails to distinguish the difference between free and reduced lunch families, making the weighted funding formula even more inaccurate.
Baker found that by eliminating the weighted funding formula for ELL students and not distinguishing between free and reduced lunches, ConnCAN's report was able to maximize funding for charter schools. Notably, Connecticut's charter schools serve very few ELL students and children from the state's lowest-income families.
The Think Twice think tank review project, a project of the National Education Policy Center, provides the public, policymakers and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is made possible in part by the support of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.
Find Baker's complete review and a link to the ConnCAN report, at: http://www.greatlakescenter.org.
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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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