Sunday, March 17, 2019

SO MANY ISSUES...
SO LITTLE TIME   

As the debate over the proposed funding formula reaches a crescendo, we believe the time has come to delay a decision until all of the remaining areas of concern can be addressed.

At a meeting of Southern Idaho Conference Superintendents last week, we developed a list of those remaining issues. It's a substantial record that includes some of the most important features of the proposal. These concerns relate to the most recent of the myriad versions of the bill, Senate Bill 1196, and the associated spreadsheet.

However, we feel that, before detailing the concerns, we need to thank the committee that put together the proposal. The members sought to address complex issues in education through weighting students, and that effort was admirable. In the end, though, the proposed formula sought to address other issues identified during the process that were never part of the initial discussions. Those concepts, like the wealth adjustment and the large district weight, were viewed by many as counter to the equity goal of the committee, and took a great deal of discussion that could have been devoted to other elements that still have not been adequately addressed, in our opinion.

Here are several of the biggest issues we identified.

THE SPREADSHEET

The first two versions of the formula spreadsheet compared "apples to apples", by using 2017-18 data for both sides of the formula equation. Afterward, despite concerns expressed by State Department of Education officials and district Business Managers, the data presented were from 2017-18 for the old formula and 2018-19 for the new, with varying amounts of funding added to the new formula side of the equation.

In order to understand the reasons why the sides have to be equal, here are a couple of quotes from the Business Managers of two districts.

"In order to measure the effect of the formula on your school district, you need to compare the revenue generated under the old formula at a particular point in time with the revenue from the new formula at the same time. That’s the only way to determine if you are truly a winner or loser." Nancy Landon, CFO, Boise District

"While our district appreciates the extremely hard work of so many individuals over the last 3 1/2 years, there continues to be an inherent problem with the data used in the highly circulated excel spreadsheet that our legislators are relying upon for much of their upcoming decision making. We beseech the key state players to demand an apples to apples financial data comparison before any further legislative deliberations transpire. In the absence of this action, our legislators will be casting pivotal public policy votes based upon fraught data." Lisa Hals, CFO, Lake Pend O'reille District

We'd add to Lisa's statement that many Superintendents and Business Managers do not know where their districts stand. Here's an example of how different the data are, considering the two comparisons:





Here is the "apples to apples" version of the spreadsheet. To be sure, for some districts, the losses are smaller without the wealth adjustment, and that is a good thing. We know that, in building a new formula and starting from scratch, we will have winners and losers. However, it's important that legislators know where their districts stand at the time when the new formula is implemented.

For example, the spreadsheet that goes with the newest bill shows the Coeur d'Alene District gaining $3.9 million (7%), and Coeur d'Alene Charter gaining $200 thousand (4%). In an apples to apples comparison, they both lose. CDA District loses $560 thousand (1%), and CDA Charter loses $152 thousand (3%). Those aren't huge losses, but the totals are a lot different than are portrayed on the newest committee spreadsheet.

THE SMALL DISTRICT FACTOR APPLIED TO CHARTERS

We certainly are in favor of equitable funding for districts and charters. But with the wealth factor zeroed out in the spreadsheet, an apples to apples comparisons shows some steep funding inequities among districts and charters that exist in those districts under the proposed formula. This is a result of applying the "Small District" factor to charters, and, for example, treating Hagerman District in the Twin Falls area the same as Rolling Hills Charter in Boise. 

Keep in mind that, in each case, the district cited has a higher percentage of Free/Reduced lunch, Special Ed, and Limited English kids.








In a few cases, the free/reduced lunch percentage nearly matches that of the district (Heritage Charter in Caldwell,  STEM Charter in Lakeland, Taylor's Crossing in IF). But the FRL and LEP percentages are typically lower, as are many of the Special Ed percentages. 

So since Charters were already funded statewide at a higher level than districts, the increased gap under the new formula is very concerning.

Demographic information are from a 2017 State Department of Education spreadsheet. NA means that there were  too few students to report in the category.

CAREER LADDER AND SALARY-BASED APPORTIONMENT

This is an issue that was attended to in Chairman Clow's bill, which never got out of committee on the House side, even though he and others had worked with the stakeholders to address many issues. We need to identify the percentage of Salary and Benefit moneys in the formula, so we can annually address possible increases in teacher salary allocations. This is a crucial area for the stakeholders.

THE "ECONOMIC WEIGHT"

This is the old "Wealth Adjustment" by another name. Though it has been zeroed out in the spreadsheet, the language addressing it is still in the new bill, That language should be stricken from the law.

EXPERIENCE INDEXING

Again, the "stakeholder bill" that was defeated in House Ed included an index from compensating districts for teachers with more experience. In order to encourage districts retain teachers, this provision is very important.

ALTERNATIVE SCHOOL FUNDING

There is no provision for funding alternative schools in the new bill, seemingly at the behest of the ECS representative who advised the committee. Though there may be a need for a tweak or two to the funding mechanism for these schools, the funding should not just go away. Alternative schools graduate students who otherwise would have long odds for success in school. This is another very important area in the formula.

OTHER ISSUES

There are numerous other issues, such a the looming cliff for districts after the "hold harmless" provision ends, the questionable accuracy of much of the data in the spreadsheet being used to inform districts and legislators, the confusing nature of the language regarding the "Career Ladder" at the local level, and others.

However, these issues are enough, we think, for the decision on the funding formula  to be delayed. This is a discussion about the largest portion of the state budget -- let's take our time and address the issues of concern, whether it's done in a task force or with a group of stakeholders who can address the key issues.














Friday, March 1, 2019

2018 IDAHO ADVANCED PLACEMENT PERFORMANCE
 EXCEEDS NATIONAL AVERAGE

Recently, Idaho Education News reporter Kevin Richert wrote an article about Advanced Placement performance in the state of Idaho. His lead: 

"Idaho high school students can take Advanced Placement tests on the taxpayer’s dime — but Idaho’s AP numbers still remain well below the national average."

Advanced Placement Participation, Passing Percentages

Well, an analysis of 2018 statewide AP passing percentages tells a different story - Idaho's percentage of passing exams is just a tiny bit higher than the national average. And Idaho's and Boise's number of participants in AP testing is up substantially over the past few years.




Here's a summary of how the top AP  2018 participation percentages and passing rates compared for Idaho high schools with more than 75 participants. Remember that we use 10-12 enrollment to gauge AP participation rates.



These participation percentages were derived by dividing the number of 2018 AP participants by the combined enrollment in grades 10, 11, and 12. It's interesting to consider the derived percentages in comparison with the statewide percentage, which is 11%. So the efforts that these high schools have made in providing opportunities for rigor are impressive.

The Idaho pass rate for Advanced Placement exams in 2018 was 59%. However, since only 11% of students statewide took an AP exam, you'd expect the percentage to be high compared with some of these schools, in which at least 25% of the students in the high schools were participants in the testing program. Nationally, the passing percentage was 58%. Advanced Placement exams are rigorous and challenging - only 6 of 10 student exams receive a score eligible for college credit, as opposed to other programs in which students receive credit based on a course grade.

Outside of the top ten, other high schools with over 20% AP participation were Centennial (West Ada) at 23%, Lewiston (22%), Sandpoint (22%), Moscow (21%), and Rocky Mountain (West Ada), 20%.

Most Popular AP Exams

As you might expect, since Boise students took 34% of the statewide AP exams, when we look at individual exams, our students took the lion's share in many cases. It's interesting to look at the relative strengths and weaknesses on some of the exams.



Boise students' pass rates exceeded those of the state of Idaho and the nation by at least 5% on English Language, Psychology, and World History, and exceeded both in Calculus AB and US History. On the English Literature, Physics 1, Statistics, and US Government exams, Boise students' pass rates were about the same as the state, or a bit lower. 

Boise and Idaho pass rates were more than 15 percent higher than the nation on the Physics 1 exam, and more than 10 percent higher on English Language and English Literature exams. Interestingly, both were almost 10 percent lower on the Statistics exam.


As you can see from the chart above, Boise students took over a third of state AP exams in 2018. The highest percentage of state exams taken by District students were in Psychology (56%) , World History (43%) and Calculus AB (35%).





Wednesday, February 6, 2019



Update - Misinformation shared with some legislators yesterday, February 7, 2019, at the "listening" session indicated that the IASA survey results were "old" and outdated. Actually, the survey questions were sent out on January 7, 2019, responses were finalized on January 11, and Superintendents received the results on January 15. This is the only funding formula survey conducted by the IASA in 2018-19.

WHAT SUPERINTENDENTS SAID 
ABOUT THE CAREER LADDER
...AND IDEAS FOR ALTERNATIVE K-12 FUNDING FORMULA SOLUTIONS

To many observing the funding formula debate, confusion reigns. We have now seen eight versions of the formula, legislation that calls for "hold positive" temporary increases, comparisons of different funding years, adjustments for everything from student demographics to rural schools to charters, wealth adjustments, teacher experience factors, and so on. It's no wonder that observers have little or no idea what is going on.

One idea that would simplify the conversation would be to remove the Career Ladder monies and the Salary-Based Apportionment legislation from the proposed funding formula. In the versions proposed by the Funding Formula Committee, those funds are included and the legislation is imposed on districts and charters, effectively creating a new bureaucratic system at the local level.

But what do Superintendents think? Some legislators and others are saying that our district leaders are divided. 

Fortunately, the Idaho School Superintendent's Association did a poll recently, and asked this question:

"(Should we put) salary-based apportionment in the funding formula?"

The answer choices for the question were not clearly stated, but here's how they came out:



Of the 81 respondents, 62 said they were "concerned" about putting SBA into the formula. Only 11 indicated that they supported doing so. Another 7 said they were not knowledgeable enough to know or were neutral. When you factor those responses out, fully 85% of respondents had concerns.

Well, what does that mean, exactly? The comments following the responses go a long way toward answering that question. Here are a few:

"Don't want to lose the career ladder.  Want salary based apportionment separate from the funding formula."

"There needs to be some way of having districts be on as level playing field as possible when it comes to base teacher salaries. The Career Ladder does an excellent job of creating that level playing field. If it goes away smaller/more cash strapped districts will really struggle to keep up and find it even harder to hire good teachers because their salaries will be much less. It has been nice having the Career Ladder in regards to negotiations with teachers unions as well. Having that pot of money in a separate category that is visible and easily understood  has helped negotiations go a lot smoother. "


"This is a terrible idea for reasons that should be obvious, but apparently are not."


"We would support salary based apportionment NOT in the funding formula.   There are multiple unintended consequences including challenges at the negotiations table, challenges to local control, and an erosion of the progress we have made under the career ladder funding."


"Please take it out so that it does not become part of the lump sum.  I am strongly against having this be part of the new formula. "


"Deal breaker in my mind - needs to be outside the new formula."

OPTIONS FOR SALARY-BASED APPORTIONMENT

So, the vast majority of Superintendents expressed the desire to keep the Career Ladder and Salary-Based Apportionment. With that in mind, we should keep the current law in place, and the money separate. Keep the statewide accountability system associated with the Career Ladder in place. Maintain the function of Salary-Based Apportionment as a distribution method for salaries and benefits.

STUDENT NEEDS SHOULD DRIVE THE REMAINING DISTRIBUTION

When Salary-Based Apportionment funds are taken out of the total package, $466.5 million remains, as you can see if you follow this link to the spreadsheet (comparing "apples to apples" 17-18 actual funding with 17-18 new formula funding). In our view, we should use the student demographic factors (Poverty, Limited English, Gifted/Talented, Special Education, K-3, and 9-12) to drive the distribution of these funds, and truly have the money follow the students. 

The draft legislation phases in these factors over time. For example:

  1. Poverty, as represented by free/reduced lunch,  starts out in 2020-21 as a 10% factor  (i.e.. FRL students count as 1.1), and increases to .2 in 2021-22, and to 25 in 2022-23. 
  2. Limited English starts at .1 in 2020, and moves to .2 in 2021-22, .3 in 2022-23, and .35 in 2023-24.
  3. Special Education students receive a .65 weight in 2020-21, .75 in 2021-22, .85 in 2022-23, .95 in 2023-24, and 1.0  in 2024-25.
  4. Gifted/Talented students are funded at a base level of 2% for each district.
  5. K-3 and 9-12 receive a 10% increment because of educational considerations at those levels.
Using this format, districts with higher percentages of students in the demographic categories receive more money for services, as is appropriate, but districts with fewer of these students do not suffer huge losses in funding.

In this recommendation, many charters lose funding, because they are not nearly as diverse as their neighboring public schools. These schools would be eligible for "hold harmless" funds provided in the draft legislation for three years, under this provision in the law:



We believe that this recommendation is sensible, and provides for reasonable, deliberate funding shifts to reflect demography of public schools in the state. We appreciate the work on the Funding Formula Committee, and believe that their considerable work provides the foundation for a stronger formula going forward. In fact, this would serve as a basis for conversations within the structure of Governor Little's new K-12 Education Task Force.






















Monday, February 4, 2019

WHY THE WEALTH ADJUSTMENT 
NEEDS TO GO AWAY

One of the many elements of the new proposed funding formula is the so-called "wealth adjustment".  If the "money should follow the kids", as several formula committee members have opined, then this factor SHOULD NOT be a part of the k-12 funding formula. This is not a student-based factor - instead, it's an adjustment based on the property value in the district divided by the district's enrollment.

Here are several reasons that this factor needs to disappear:

We Already have a Factor Dedicated to Poverty

The "wealth factor" factor is not a proxy for free/reduced lunch rates, which are a legitimate weighting factor. In fact, as we referenced in our first series of blogs on this topic, districts with similar free/reduced lunch percentages may have wildly different market value assessments. A great example is the comparison between Coeur d'Alene and Bonneville.



In this case, the money does not follow the kids. It follows the market value. The Coeur d'Alene District has proportionally as many free/reduced students as does Bonneville. 

The Wealth Adjustment Penalizes School Districts with Robust Economies

The Spreadsheet Data

  • The values used in the funding formula spreadsheet by the consultant from the Education Commission of the States were old. In fact, the consultant used Market Value data from 2016-17 and enrollment data from 2017-18! Here is the story those data tell.





As we noted previously, the idea of the "wealth adjustment" is that districts that are below the state average (<1.0) get the adjustment and those that are above do not. The lower the  ratio compared to the state, the more the adjustment. 

So Boise (1.53), CDA (1.62), LPO (3.55), McCall (5.57), and Teton (1.93) were well above the state average and would not receive the adjustment. Conversely, Bonneville (0.45), Poky (0.41), and Cassia Cty (0.47) are well below the average. West Ada (0.94) and Post Falls (0.94) were just below the average.

The New Data (from the State Department of Education)

But what happens when you update the model with new data? Luckily, the Idaho SDE provided us with updates to market value and enrollment for the 18-19 school year so we could see how things changed.






Though there are some other changes that we will mention a little later, the major difference here is that West Ada's market value has changed dramatically since 2016, and, using 2018-19 market value, the district no longer receives the "wealth adjustment", and goes from an overall loss of $809k to a loss of $9.4 million.  Post Falls stayed just under the state average, and so maintained its wealth adjustment.

So, if West Ada is affected just by using current data, what do the trends say about what might happen to the "wealth adjustment" for other districts whose market value is growing. 


The Trend Data

We had access to the Market Values for 2016 and 2018, and so looked at the trend data for the districts we used in the comparisons above. Understand that the trend analysis we have done is quite simplistic and assumes no major glitches in the economy (which there surely will be).




The statewide market value has grown by 19% since 2016. Districts that have had more growth than the state are either moving toward the state average or moving farther above it.

Almost every Treasure Valley district is growing at a faster rate than is the state, led by Vallivue, which is followed by West Ada, Boise, Kuna, and Nampa. In the north, market value growth in CDA, Lakeland, and Post Falls is outpacing the state, as it is in the Twin Falls District in south-central Idaho. In other words, at current rates of growth, the fast-growing districts will likely lose the "wealth adjustment" at some point.

School Districts have Limited Options in Dealing with the Revenue Losses

Districts that lose funding in the new model will be "held positive" for several years;  they will gain at least 2% in each of those years, according to the newest version of the legislation. But after that, all bets are off. Legislators have intimated that there will be increased funding, but with other pressing priorities, we really can't be sure what the future will hold. 

As a matter of course, District leaders can prepare for the "cliff" that will come with decreased funding by:

  • shortening the school year/day
  • cutting staff
  • asking taxpayers to pick up the lost revenue
Shortening the school day and year have not worked in the districts that have tried these "solutions" in Idaho, and they've not saved the money they thought they would.

Of course, almost all of the districts that are "losers" in this formula already have levies; charters that lose have no way to recoup their losses, other than to appeal directly to their patrons. 

For districts, it's a matter of planning for how to deal with the loss. Lewiston, for example, already has a $15 million levy. Coeur d'Alene has $16 million, Lakeland has $9 million, Teton $3.4 million, West Ada $14 million.

For large, successful charters like Sage (5% cut), Coeur d'Alene (9%), North Star (4%), Meridian Medical (7%), Meridian Technical (9%) Charters, the prospects would be bleak.

Could West Ada up their levy request by $9.5 million to keep from cutting 180 teachers and maintain  class size? For CDA it would be 50 teachers and an increase of $2.5 million. Maybe so, but it's a tough sell when districts increase their requests to offset monies sent to other parts of the state. 

Moving Forward

The "wealth adjustment" will make budget-setting unpredictable for many school districts, and make for a volatile funding atmosphere. We believe that it should be eliminated from the proposed formula. In fact, in our next post, we will recommend going back to the original intent of the new formula, and eliminating all but the weights that provide for money following the students.

New Spreadsheet (Again)

A new spreadsheet (version 9?) was posted to the Interim Committee website yesterday (February 1). Once again, the committee leadership has insisted on comparing apples to oranges in their projection of the effects of the formula, by comparing 17-18 old formula monies with 18-19 new formula monies. And once again we have provided those who want to see a fair comparison with data comparing 17-18 old formula with 17-18 new formula. The 17-18 vs. 18-19 version denotes 45 losers; the "apples to apples" 17-18 vs. 17-18 version shows that the true number is 72, just under half of the charters and districts in the state.






Monday, January 28, 2019

MEASURING WHAT OUR KIDS
ARE LEARNING

THE LEGISLATIVE MEETING

Shortly before winter break, Boise District officials met with legislators to preview our priorities for the 2019 legislative session. At one point, we began to speak about our goal of keeping the Career Ladder in place so that we would have a reliable, consistent source of funding with which to increase teacher salaries.

Then came the question: "Why should we provide more money for salaries when there has been no progress on student achievement?"

We responded that the scores on the SBAC have remained flat across the multi-state consortium, and that perhaps that says more about the test than about student achievement. In fact, in various locations, educators and politicians have called for an end to statewide standardized testing, and critics have argued that the test itself is broken, while SBAC promoters argue that the test is valid. High opt-out rates have become more and more common, as parents and students question the value of the tests.

From the back of the room came the muttered comment, "Excuses, excuses. All we hear are excuses."

There ensued a discussion of what the test scores mean and why they should/should not be used as an indicator for teacher pay raises. The discussion continued around the topics of "achievement" and "growth" measures associated with the test, and that neither show evidence of progress.

SHOWING PROGRESS

One problem with the standardized testing we do in Idaho and in other states is that there is no way to show a meaningful comparison that people understand. When we say that 56% of students were proficient last year and 58% are this year, it really doesn't tell us much about what improvement was made, no matter the subject. To do so, we have to be more specific, and give examples. But for the SBAC, neither teachers nor administrators are allowed to see the questions that are asked of our students.

The Boise District has given "End of Course" examinations, which are really "common finals" to students since 2001. They typically count as 10% of the student's semester grade and give us a gauge of how effectively the curriculum was taught and learned.

But the "EOC" tests also allow us to examine performance across the district or by school on individual items or content areas on a particular test. For years, we have used the assessments to decide on curricular modifications, areas that need more focus, or areas that are covered very well in a particular course.

But what we have never done in the past is to use "Pre/Post" assessments to ascertain the progress made by students on course content. This winter/spring semester, we will do so, giving U.S History 11 assessments to students in Caldwell, Vallivue, Kuna, and Boise to see what kind of progress our kids are making on learning important concepts.

END OF COURSE RESULTS - FIRST SEMESTER, 2018-19

We already know how our kids are doing on final EOC tests in a number of areas. Here are some examples from EOC's given at the end of the first semester in December, 2018.

From the US History 11, Semester 1 Exam:


Certainly, we want our students to know the effect of the Jim Crow laws that emerged following the Civil War. And on the final exam  in the first semester of U.S History, 87% of students correctly answered this question.


This example is from the General Biology first semester end of course exam. In  this case, 90% of students correctly answered "b.". 

PRE-TEST RESULTS, SECOND SEMESTER, 2018-19

As we noted above, we have not previously done a pre/post test with our EOC's, so we are happy to join with several other districts to show the progress our students make.

This also gives us a chance to look at the questions on our test and see if there are some that show us high levels of previous learning. When we pre-tested the U.S. History 11 second semester EOC, we found that there were a few questions in this category.





On the pretest for US History 11, second semester, 78% of students correctly answered "c" for this question. Incorrect answers were spread among the three alternatives relatively evenly. It was gratifying to see that so many students possessed at least some prior knowledge in this area.



Seventy percent (70%) of students correctly answered "a"  for this question about the confrontation that had the world on edge in 1962. Not bad for the pretest.

For most questions, much smaller percentages of students could correctly answer the pretest questions, as you might expect. For example, only 23% of students answered the following question correctly ("a"), and the largest percentage of kids thought that "c" was the right choice. We thought more students might know this one, as the images from Kent State are seared in our memories, but obviously students need some background on this era.

 And, on a question to which 60's music aficionados would think everyone should know:



fewer than half (47%) knew the name of the concert at Yasgur's Farm.

So this will be our first try at measuring student growth on an end of course examination. We will report back at the end of the semester on the progress our students have made on the content of US History 11. As we see meaningful results, we'll look at expanding our use of pre-post on our end of course exams.

















Friday, January 11, 2019

THE NEW "PROPOSED" FUNDING FORMULA 
AN ALTERNATIVE PROPOSAL


In 2016, Idaho's per-pupil expenditures were $7157, 49th in the nation, according to Census data reported in the website Governing.com. The national average per pupil expenditure was reported as  $11,762 per student. 

And yet, the new proposed funding formula shifts funding among districts and creates winners and losers, instead of looking to improve the lot of all stakeholders. We believe that this approach will produce chaotic results as we move forward.

The new proposed formula throws out the most successful educational approach of the past two decades, the Career Ladder, which was championed by Governor Otter and recommended by the k-12 Education Task Force as one of its key goals.

So, let's take a look at an alternative model that allows us to keep the Career Ladder and integrate some weighted factors which would allow us to implement some differential pay for teachers in high-poverty environments, or who teach special populations.



In this view of the funding formula, Continuous Improvement Planning drives the actions (spokes of the wheel) of districts across the state, as it should. We recommend:
  • Keep the Career Ladder and Salary-Based Apportionment, which serve as the base distribution mechanism for salaries, leadership advanced opportunities, and the like.
  • Use "Student-based" factors (weights) to provide additional funding for teachers who work with challenged populations of students.
  • Keep Technology and CTE funding as separate high priorities.
  • Use student performance indicators to evaluate the success of the Improvement Plan.
This system is:
  • Purposeful - all parts of the formula support the Strategic Plan
  • Intentional - each part of the formula is designed to produce desired results in the Strategic Plan
  • Meaningful - the elements of the formula have meaning to the stakeholders
  • Agile - elements of the formula can be adjusted to meet shifting needs 
  • Flexible - control of the formula elements is left at the district level whenever possible
  • Transparent - all are aware of how funds are allocated and the purpose for the allocation.
Governor Little recently proposed a second Governor's Task Force to evaluate the accomplishments of the first and look toward the future. We'd suggest that the proposed funding formula and alternatives be considered by the Task Force, as well. We believe this alternative plan would get us down the road toward the Funding Formula Committee's equity goals while looking at improving the lot of all district and charters in the state in terms of teacher's salaries.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

THE NEW "PROPOSED" FUNDING FORMULA 
WINNERS AND LOSERS...AND MORE (Part 3)

BIGGEST  LOSERS

Here are the School District and Charter losers in the new formula, using 17-18 information for the old distribution system and 17-18 data for the new. Whereas we looked at the "wealth" adjustment in the Part 2 of this series, these numbers are the "apples to apples" comparison of 17-18 data for the current formula and the "new" proposed formula. They do not include the 2018-19 wealth adjustment data, or West Ada would be on the list.










Here are the Charter Schools that lose in the proposed new formula:





There are 83 school districts and charters that would take a loss in the implementation of the new formula. Since 80-85% of each district's expenditures typically are sunk into staffing, we calculated the loss in terms of teachers at $50k per teacher, and came up with a loss of 531 teachers.

Obviously, some losses are substantial, and some less impactful. Clearly, though, the move to the new formula would affect a number of districts and charters.

What's really concerning, though, is that the demographics of the schools and districts that lose funding are all over the board. Bliss for example, is a small district with 82% free/reduced lunch, Clark County has 72% FRL, American Falls 64%, Valley 64%, and Culdesac 62%. On the other end of the spectrum, Compass, Sage, Meridian Technical, and CDA Charters all have FRL %ages under 20%, Genesee is at 23% and Troy is at 21%. So certainly the demographics of the students are not driving funding in this proposed formula.

SOME WINNERS


On the flip side, Bonneville School District gains about $3.6 million (5.1%) in the new formula, and Caldwell gains $2.9 million (7.9%). Caldwell certainly has a high percentage of free/reduced lunch, at over 80%, but Bonneville, at 39%, is about the same as Lakeland, Teton, Sugar-Salem, New Plymouth, and Fruitland, which all lose funding. 

Of the ten biggest percentage gainers in the formula, eight are charters. The two districts in the grouping are Lapwai and Plummer/Worley, which have 90+% free/reduced. The charters are Chief Tahgee (Fort Hall) (80+%), The Village (Boise) (19%), Monticello Montessori (Pocatello) (15%), Gem Prep (Nampa and Pocatello) (na), North Valley (Gooding) (58%), Bingham Academy (Pocatello), (40%) and Palouse Prairie (Moscow) (30%).

IT'S COMPLICATED

All in all, this is a very complicated formula, and it's difficult to tell which factors are contributing the most to the status of winners and losers. But we understand the conundrum caused by using mathematical algorithms to determine funding in a state like Idaho.


  • When you just use free/reduced  factor, you get:
    • low poverty levels in a few districts, like Bonneville, West Ada, Lewiston, Soda Springs, and most charters
    • high poverty in Districts such as Lapwai, Plummer/Worley, Caldwell, Vallivue, and Nampa
    • urban poverty in Boise, Idaho Falls, and Pocatello
    • rural poverty over much of the state
  • When you use ELL (you should use Limited English), you get:
    • rural Latino concentrations over much of the state
    • urban Latino concentrations in many towns and cities
    • urban refugee populations in Boise, West Ada, and Twin Falls
    • very few ELL/LEP students in northern Idaho and some parts of eastern Idaho
  • The small district factor, when applied to charters:
    • covers for the lack of diversity in most charters
    • belies the original intent of the factor and hurts small rural districts
    • does not cover for the lack of diversity in large charters such as Sage and Thomas Jefferson
  • The Remote School weight accounts for the costs that consolidated county districts incur in serving remote schools within the county.
  • The wealth factor distributes wealth as if it were an equalizing factor, without the levy funds that were equalized prior to 2006, thus distributing funds from locally authorized levies across the state.
  • The Large district factor attempts to account for some of the costs of running a district with more than 20,000 students. There are only two of those in the state - Boise and West Ada.

AN ALTERNATIVE

In Part 4 of this series, we will provide an alternative idea, one that allows us to dip our toe into the "weighting" process, while staying out of the proposed zero sum game where over half the districts and charters in the state lose revenue.