Policy Brief #5
Funding School Districts Based on Student Attendance: How Use of Average Daily Attendance Harms School Finance Equity in Texas
David S. Knight and Mark Olofson
At the close of the last Texas legislative session, House Bill 21 established the Texas Commission on Public School Finance. The purpose of this commission is to make recommendations for improvements to the Texas school finance system to inform the upcoming legislative session. In this policy brief, the authors discuss a provision in the Texas school finance system in which school districts receive funding based on their average daily attendance (ADA), rather than the actual number of enrolled students.
The authors present evidence that school districts have little control over student attendance and that efforts to incentivize districts to improve attendance through the funding system are likely ineffective. The authors then show that attendance-based funding disproportionately reduces funding for high-poverty districts. The El Paso Independent School District, for example, loses $452 per student (5.4% of state and local funding), or $27.5 million per year as a result of the state’s use of ADA-funding. Many districts around the state that serve more socio-economically advantaged students lose less than 3% of their state and local funding. The authors recommend that state policymakers allow high-poverty districts to use the attendance rate achieved their best six weeks of the school year, or simply replace ADA-based funding with enrollment based funding.
Policy Brief #4
Principal Burnout: Addressing School Leadership Turnover in the El Paso Borderlands
David E. DeMatthews, David S. Knight, Paul Carrola, and Elena Izquierdo
Research shows burnout among school principals is a growing problem that often leads to early career attrition. This policy brief provides recommendations for school district administrators and state and national policymakers for addressing principal burnout, which may help reduce principal turnover. The brief describes the results of a mixed-method study that compares rates of burnout and secondary trauma of principals in a large El Paso, Texas school district to that of other human service professionals. Results show that the amount of burnout that principals experience is roughly similar to that of professionals working in other human service fields such as emergency medicine and conflict resolution. The authors find that principal burnout is particularly high among early career principals, while those who remain in the profession for longer than 10 years report lower rates of burnout. The authors then draw on interview data to describe how principals experience burnout and secondary trauma and draw on coping mechanisms. The results suggest that veteran principals have developed mechanisms for dealing with secondary trauma and burnout and that district administrators may need to provide stronger socio-emotional support structures for early-career principals. The brief closes with recommendations for policy and practice.
Policy Brief #3
The Trump Effect on Federal Education Policy: How Federal Actions on the Every Student Succeeds Act Affect Schools Nationally, in Texas, and in the El Paso Region
David S. Knight
This policy brief provides background on recent changes to federal education policy under the Trump Administration and reports the findings from a new study from the Center for Education Research and Policy Studies (CERPS). Following the passing of the Every Student Succeed Act (ESSA), the Education Department developed regulations that would govern the law’s implementation through a procedure known as the Rulemaking Process. One of the key provisions required school districts with large achievement gaps to equalize funding across schools. However, in March 2017, Congress moved to block all previously established regulations for implementing ESSA. Under Secretary DeVos, the Education Department developed a new set of regulations that excludes any requirements for districts to equitably distribute funding across schools. The CERPS study explores the potential impact of removal of federal school district spending regulations, analyzes districts that have equalized spending across schools, and offers policy recommendations for increasing equity in school district resource allocation.
Policy Brief #2
Implementation, Cost, and Funding of Bilingual Education in Texas: Lessons for Local and State Policymakers
David S. Knight, Elena Izquierdo, and David E. DeMatthews
Despite the rapid increase in enrollment of students who speak a language other than English at home, little prior research examines the resources required to implemented instructional programs for emergent bilinguals and whether school districts receive adequate funding for these programs. This policy brief (a) synthesizes research on implementation of bilingual education, (b) describes research on the cost of bilingual education programs, and (c) reports the findings of a study showing that bilingual education programs are severely underfunding in Texas and nationally.
The brief offers recommendations for local and state policymakers. School leaders can use bilingual education models to support more inclusive learning environments. District administrators can improve implementation of bilingual education by mobilizing key stakeholders within their local context. Finally, state policymakers should consider: (a) increasing funding weights associated with English language learner (ELL) students; and (b) providing start-up funds for districts implementing new instructional models for ELLs.
Policy Brief #1
Were High-Poverty Districts in Texas Disproportionately Impacted by State Funding Cuts? School Finance Equity in Texas Following the Great Recession
David S. Knight
While almost all states cut education funding following the Great Recession, and few have restored budgets back to pre-recession levels, there is little understanding among policy makers about how state funding cuts were distributed across districts.
When Texas cut K-12 education budgets by $4 billion in 2011, legislators reached a compromise over whether to cut funding evenly for all districts, or whether to protect high-need districts. This policy brief shows that despite state legislators’ efforts, the highest-poverty districts in Texas experienced a disproportionate share of the recessionary budget cuts. Although this trend holds nationally, the funding gap between rich and poor districts expanded by more in Texas than in 43 other states around the country. The policy brief then describes idiosyncrasies within the Texas school finance system that prevented high-poverty districts from maintaining equitable funding levels, despite their relatively larger increases in local tax rates.
While all regions in Texas would benefit from leveling up funding in high-poverty districts, Region 19 would see larger increases in average per-pupil funding than any other region in the state, given its high poverty rates and lower funding levels. Providing equitable funding across Texas school districts, without lowering funding in wealthier districts, would require a 17% increase in state education funding and cost the state $9.1 billion.
This policy brief is particularly timely given the recent State Supreme Court decision in Texas that found the school finance system constitutional, but in severe need of reform. Legislators are currently pushing for further study of the state finance system in preparation for the upcoming legislative session.