Educate Now! has received a lot of questions concerning information that Lusher and Franklin sent to their parents about the differentiated funding formula Orleans is working on, which will go before BESE in March. Unfortunately, the email circulated by the schools contains incomplete and wrong information.
The committee developing this funding formula, which includes OPSB schools, RSD schools, OPSB leadership, and RSD leadership, anticipates that the formula will include a clause such that no school loses more than a 2%. For Lusher, that 2% translates to a maximum reduction of $170/student, or around $291,000 not $1,200,000, as was stated in the email. For Franklin, the loss of revenues based on current student count is $155,000.
Last year, Senator Claitor passed a bill that required OPSB charters to be funded this year using the weights in the state MFP formula and also required RSD and OPSB to create one formula for the entire city beginning with the 2016-17 school year. While OPSB is now using state weights, RSD schools are funded with a formula that heavily weights special education, based upon services required.
The state’s MFP formula (and the MFP weights) are meant to allocate funds between school districts; it is not meant as a funding formula for individual schools. Outside of Orleans Parish, the money from the state goes to a school district as a block grant, and the school district decides how to allocate its monies to fund its schools.
In New Orleans, the money follows a student; the school district no longer determines school staffing and budgets. Thus, as a city, we need a formula that recognizes some students are more expensive to educate than others. Some students, given their disability, require specialized transportation, one-on-one paraprofessionals, and specialized equipment, which can cost a school in excess of $50,000/year to provide.
The proposed formula provides extra money for special needs students based on what services a student requires. It pretty much keeps the current RSD weights for special education. The proposed formula also provides extra funding for English Language Learners, Overage students and Gifted and Talented students.
The heaviest weights in the proposed formula are for special needs students. Citywide, around 11% of the student population is special needs. Educate Now! does not have 2016 enrollment, but in 2014 Franklin enrolled less than 1% special needs students and Lusher had less than 4%.
While no formula is perfect, the RSD and OPSB have been working together and with schools for the past few months in a transparent fashion to develop one formula for the city. The working group expects to finalize the formula soon.
The email circulating to parents did not mention the “transition clause” which caps the loss at 2%, nor did it mention the special education weights. Unfortunately, it wrongly stated that Lusher and Franklin were at risk of losing money because, “Historically successful schools’ budgets are being gutted to fund historically underperforming & mismanaged schools under the guise that the successful schools educate ‘privileged’ students.”
The funding formula is not being designed to reward schools that are underperforming and mismanaged. It is being designed to recognize that some students cost more to educate, and the city needs a fair and equable formula that recognizes the relative costs of educating students with widely variable needs.
For more information, see this post by Peter Cook.