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yesterday, February 7, 2019, at the "listening" session indicated that the IASA survey results were "old" and outdated.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.


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."


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.


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.