Setting the record straight on Results-Based Funding

  Glenn Hamer

  April 20, 2017               

Negotiations over the next fiscal year state budget are headed into crunch time. Interest groups on all sides – including the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry – are making their pitch to lawmakers and the Governor’s Office for their priority item to be included in the final package.

One of our top priorities is Results-Based Funding for K-12 education. It’s also a priority for Gov. Doug Ducey. The Chamber believes it’s the best opportunity to sustain and grow our best schools and positively impact the lives of more kids.

The plan is not without its critics, however. Their claims, though, could use a little myth-busting.
First, this isn’t a funding structure designed for a few select schools.
The governor’s proposal makes the largest investment in high-poverty and low-income schools. In fact, those schools getting results in the highest poverty neighborhoods receive almost double the results funding of higher income schools.
Despite claims to the contrary from some corners, schools with 30-59 percent of their kids in poverty are not wealthy. They have a diverse population and the challenges that go with it. Combined with the high-poverty cohort, they make up the bulk of the schools receiving funding under the governor’s plan.
And we’re talking about both charter schools and district schools. It’s a variety of small, large, urban and rural public schools of all stripes that will be the recipients of this funding. They are all beating the odds and ready to serve more students or teach others how to do what they do.
There’s also a tired argument that schools that are in higher income areas don’t need additional recognition or encouragement to expand.
Rewarding excellence in district and charter schools is important in every neighborhood. Being in a good neighborhood doesn’t automatically make you a good school. All parents work hard to find a good fit for their children and are not immune from having kids in a neighborhood school that underserves their child’s potential.
Parents from all backgrounds strive for their children to go to great schools and they have a right to do so. Results-Based Funding helps clear the path for that to happen.
Along with the skepticism of recognizing the good work of schools that happen to be in higher-income areas, comes the claim that failing schools need additional dollars to turn themselves around.
But we know now that more money doesn’t make schools better; a decision to improve does.
The Obama Administration  sank billions into School Improvement Grants to help states’ lowest performing schools improve. Research shows that most of the schools that received funding stayed the same or actually got worse.
Tragically, when schools that receive school improvement dollars actually do improve, they lose access to the funding-for-failure stream of dollars and their budgets shrink. Results-Based Funding will help stop what happens to communities like Ajo when they move from an “F” to an “A” and, as a result, lose money because they’re no longer eligible to receive the extra funding that goes with low performance.
The state and federal governments fund dozens of characteristics of a school, but being great currently isn’t one of them. Arizona’s best schools have to sustain their impact on their own.
Recognizing and rewarding excellence somehow is a radical idea in education funding, but it shouldn’t be. Gov. Ducey’s Results-Based Funding changes that by lending a hand to those that are great to help grow their work and serve more kids.
Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry
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