The U.S. Department of Education (USED) has issued a notice inviting districts to apply for Flexibility for Equitable Per-Pupil Funding, a new pilot program authorized in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). This pilot would allow up to 50 school districts to allocate federal funds to schools via a weighted student funding formula.
(Note: The Department of Education refers to this program as a “student-centered funding pilot”; however, the pilot is not explicitly structured or intended to advance student-centered learning models. ESSA refers to the pilot as “Flexibility for Equitable Per-Pupil Funding,” which is the term that iNACOL is using in order to avoid any confusion with the terminology).
For districts wishing to allocate federal funds to schools using their own weighted, per-pupil funding formulas, the pilot provides an opportunity for districts to combine their federal funds with local and state funding. With the flexibility, a district can allocate these combined funds to schools via a weighted formula to drive additional monies to the most disadvantaged students.
It is important to note that Flexibility for Equitable Per-Pupil Funding does not add flexibility to enable so-called “backpack funding” or “portability,” where federal funding can follow students to other districts, charters or private schools. The pilot allows federal funds to follow students only within a school district.
Further, the pilot only grants flexibility in the use of existing federal funds: it is not a grant, and no additional money would flow to pilot districts from the Federal Government.
The application opened on February 7. For districts intending to use the flexibility during the 2018-2019 school year, the application is due by March 12. For districts intending to use the flexibility during the 2019-2020 school year, the application is due by July 15 and districts can use the 2018-2019 school year as a planning year.
How Does the Pilot Work?
A district would enter into a flexibility agreement with the Secretary of Education to consolidate eligible federal funds with state and local funds in order to create a school funding system based on weighted per-pupil allocations. According to the draft application for the pilot from the US Department of Education, in the agreement, a district must:
- Allocate State and local education funds and eligible Federal funds to the school level based on the number of students in a school and a formula using per-pupil weighted amounts;
- Allocate to schools a significant percentage of all the LEA’s State and local education funds and eligible Federal funds, which shall be agreed upon during the application process;
- Use weights or allocation amounts that allocate substantially more funding to English learners, students from low-income families and students with any other characteristics associated with educational disadvantage chosen by the LEA than to other students;
- Ensure that each high-poverty school, in the first year of the local flexibility demonstration agreement, receives from State and local education funds and eligible Federal funds, when compared to the year prior to entering into the local flexibility demonstration agreement:
- More per-pupil funding for low-income students; and
- At least as much per-pupil funding for English learners.
- Include all school-level actual personnel expenditures for instructional staff (including staff salary differentials for years of employment) and actual non-personnel expenditures in the calculation of the funds allocated under the system to schools.
The pilot could be an opportunity for districts using personalized, competency-based learning models to better meet students where they are, by allocating additional funding to schools for disadvantaged students, using a weighted student funding formula.
Learn more: Districts interested in learning more and applying for the pilot can find more information from the U.S. Department of Education.
The U.S. Department of Education will host two webinars for districts interested in applying to participate in the Flexibility for Equitable Per-Pupil Funding pilot on Wednesday, February 21 from 2-3:30pm ET and Thursday, February 22 from 12:30-2pm ET. The webinars will be recorded, and the recordings – as well as the slides – will be posted at https://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/leg/essa/scfp/studentcentered.html.
- Center on Reinventing Public Education – Marguerite Roza: The Case for Weighted Student Funding
- Foundation for Excellence in Education – Competency-Based Education & School Finance
- Fordham Institute – Follow the Money: ESSA’s Weighted Student Funding Pilots
- National Education Association – Pilot Program for Weighted Student-funding Formulas
- iNACOL – Moving Away from Seat-time: State Policies to Support Competency Education through Credit Flexibility and Enrollment (ADM) Funding