How much for your child?

Tomorrow we continue our Education Funding Act Study Committee meetings (Room 521 Blatt Building, 1:30 p.m.). The committee has heard alot of testimony from several knowledgable individuals but now we need to start formulating a plan that can hopefully accomplish two simple objectives:

1. Improve how our state funds public education
2. Draft legislation that can actually pass through the House and Senate and Governor (171 people).

The State has been writing about this alot. Tonight I wanted to provide some “sunshine” on information most people may not know about. Tonight it’s Weighted Pupil Units.

The (current) weight system provides for the cost differences between educational programs for different students. The elementary (4-8) student is determined to be the most economically educated student and bears a weight of 1.00. Visually and hearing handicapped students bear a weight of 2.57. There are 15 classification of weights.

Classification Weightings

Kindergarten……………………………….1.30
Primary……………………………………..1.24
Elementary…………………………………1.00
High School………………………………..1.25
Trainable Mentally Handicapped*……….2.04
Speech Handicapped……………………..1.90
Homebound………………………………..2.10
Emotionally Handicapped………………..2.04
Educable Mentally Handicapped………..1.74
Learning Disabilities……………………..1.74
Hearing Handicapped…………………….2.57
Visually Handicapped…………………….2.57
Orthopedically Handicapped…………….2.04
Vocational………………………………….1.29
Autism………………………………………2.57

*Includes Profoundly Mentally Handicapped.Average Daily Membership (ADM) The aggregate number of days for which students are in membership divided by the number of days in the reporting period. Reporting periods are 45 days (October) and 135 days (March/April)

Ok….can’t we simplify this? Do we really need FIFTEEN different classifications? In doing research, some states have only three…..1, 1.5, and 2.0? And aren’t these numbers arbitrary really?

Apparently we acknowledge a different “cost” (weight) for each “type” of student. However, one notable exception to me is the “Poor Kid”. (Is that politically correct to say?) My question is this: Wouldn’t most of us consider it more expensive to educate someone in a “poorer district”? Most would admit that in a “perfect world” it should cost the same to educate every child but if we already have a system of weights, shouldn’t we explore this concept?

I’m not saying we need to throw more money at the problem but (here goes the politically damaging part), shouldn’t we agree there should be some weight given to “rich” and “poor” kids? This would most likely mean that folks like me (representing “rich” districts) will have to give up some of “our money” to the “poor” districts. Because if we actually address this disparity, districts with a “poor kid” classication will receive more money than those with less students in that category.

I could muster that (and hope my constituents could to) if….and that’s a BIG IF:

1. We assure the money gets to the classroom (maybe 65%?)
2. We let the districts determine how to spend that money…free them up, so to speaks so that they have local control on what works/what doesn’t, instead of all these mandates from state government.

Of course, now we are getting outside the scope of the committee (are we?) and addressing more than just the FUNDING side of things. And if we’re going to go there, do we address the “third rail of SC politics” – school choice? And by “school choice” I mean public AND private.

Back to funding: can’t we propose something like Elementary 1.00, Kindergarten, Primary and High School 1.25, “Poor Kids” 1.50, Handicapped/Disabled 2.25 for Weighted Pupil Students?

I could, if we can also address the SPENDING part of the equation too.

That’s alot of Ifs, isn’t it?