A Re-Evaluation of Education Financing in Vermont

Lawrence O. Picus prepared a framing paper and moderated a school funding symposium hosted by Vermont’s Governor, Senate President Pro Tem and Speaker of the House at St. Michael’s College in Colchester on January 14.

The symposium included a six-member expert panel discussion and several small group work sessions designed to evaluate possible options for the State of Vermont’s financing system and its fairness to students and taxpayers.

VTDigger.org:  Effort begins to re-evaluate education financing in Vermont

 

Final Report: Maine Interim Committee on Education and Culture

On December 10, Larry Picus, Allan Odden and Mike Goetz met with the Maine Interim Committee on Education and Culture to review the final report of the firm’s study of the adequacy of Maine’s school funding system.  The report led to much discussion and two excellent articles in the Maine press.  See

The Portland Press Herald:  Maine panel gets proposals to revamp education

The Bangor Daily News:  Report sought by Republicans says Maine should increase

Picus Odden starting Kentucky Adequacy Study

Picus Odden and Associates is in the process of developing a study of the adequacy of Kentucky’s school funding system, working under contract with the Council for Better Education.  Senior Associate Michael Goetz will direct the project, which will use the firm’s Evidence-Based model to assess adequacy and build on the firm’s analyses of Kentucky’s education system conducted in the early 1990s.  Results should be available in the second half of 2014.

See article: http://wkms.org/term/picus-odden-and-associates

Meeting with Maine’s Interim Education Committee

The Picus Odden report on school finance reform, using the Evidence Based Model, received a good response by the Interim Education Committee meeting on October 29, 2013.

An article published in Maine’s, Bangor Daily News reported,

“Members of the Legislature’s Education Committee on Tuesday focused on what the best possible education system in Maine should look like, while deferring what is sure to be a contentious debate about how to pay for it.”

The final report for Maine’s Interim Education Committee is due on the 1st of December.

Teacher Compensation Handbook

In 2007, we developed a teacher compensation handbook for state and local policymakers that identified the steps needed to redesign teacher salary schedules, from those today based on years if experience and education units to one based on effectiveness teacher expertise.

Since that time, states and districts have developed new teacher evaluation systems that produce effectiveness metrics that can be used to operate the new types of salary schedules discussed in the handbook.  We also are in the process of updating that handbook to reflect this phenomenon as well as additional knowledge acquired over the last five years with state and local experimentation with new salary elements.

With that said, the handbook still serves as a good starting point for places considering how to redesign teacher salary schedules.


How to Boost Student Learning

Odden’s 2009 book, Ten Strategies for Doubling Student Performance, Corwin Press, provides another articulation of how such resources can be transformed into school improvement strategies that boost student learning and close achievement gaps.

            Our many studies of individual schools in states across the country provide additional examples.  The following are good exemplars:

            Abbottsford Elementary School (Wisconsin)

            Colchester High School (Vermont)

            Monroe Elementary School (Wisconsin)

            Montgomery Elementary School (Vermont)

            White River Elementary School (Vermont)

For additional cases, see Chapter 1 of Allan Odden and Sarah Archibald, Doubling Student Performance …. and finding the resources to do it, Corwin Press (2009).


Examining Property Value as an Indicator of Household Income

An issue re-emerging in the school finance context is whether property value per se is the best indicator of local school district, and its households, ability to pay.

The concern is two fold.

  • The first is the high property tax burden placed on low income households who live in high property wealth per pupil districts, such as second home or resort communities.
  • The second is whether all things being equal (including the access to raise property taxes via guaranteed tax base programs), household income still gives higher income districts an advantage in raising local funds for schools (which research finds it does).

The policy resolutions include both adding an income factor to the property wealth per pupil measure by multiplying property wealth by the ratio of the district’s average income measure to that of the state, as well as expanding state “circuit breaker” programs of property tax relief that limit property taxes as a percent of household income (by providing income tax credits or rebates when property taxes exceed a set percentage).

Early in his career, Odden identified this as an important school finance issue , it is the subject of a policy option paper our firm wrote for our 2013 Maine project, and it is the subject of a policy brief just issued by the Education Commission of the States, which references both Odden’s earlier work and our Maine policy paper.


Resources for Strategic Budgeting

We discuss “strategic budgeting” more in two books:

In addition, our 2011 and 2012 articles in professional publications further discuss these issues:


Traditional Use of Education Dollars

An earlier version of the findings about the use of the education dollar can be found in our 1995 Phi  Delta Kappan article that concluded that the traditional way education dollars are spent produce neither fiscal smoking guns nor fiscal academy awards .  This article drew on several years of study when the principals in our firm directed a national school finance center.  The 1995 annual yearbook of the Association for Finance and Policy summarized what we and others discovered about how education dollars are traditionally used.


Applying the Evidenced Based-Model: Maine

Chapter 6 of our April 2013 Maine Study shows how we used our Evidence-Based Model (EB) to assess the adequacy of a Maine’s education funding system.  Our 2010 “Desk Audit” of the Wyoming school funding model, which was initially based on our Evidence -Based model, provides another example of how we use this model to assess and recalibrate a state’s funding system.