Equity and the School Board – No Easy Answers

The district’s equity policy was originally adopted in 1994. Shortly after, the East Area Success Team came to the Board with a proposal that we adopt a more equitable approach to distributing resources. This became the Equity Resource Allocation formula; it was used, and is still used, to distribute additional resources (supplemental) to the neediest schools at the elementary level. The Board allocated a number of the supplemental positions to support SAGE programming at 16 schools in 2000-01. Since most schools used the supplemental resources to decrease class size this appeared to be a reasonable way to reduce class sizes and gain a bit more in state funding.
Last spring the Northside PTO Coalition, which has been very concerned about the equity policy, put this question before the school board: “If further cuts are required, will you commit to working with the community to try to protect smaller class sizes at the neediest schools, even if that means raising class sizes at schools with lower poverty levels?”
The Board discussion reported in the Capital Times earlier this week was about the questions and issues such an approach raises. My questions are:
How much do we take away from some schools and some programs to maintain resources at other schools?

  • Just to clarify, the first step the Task Force on Equity is directed to take is to review the district’s current policy and the equity resource allocation formula.
  • Is the income of students to be the overriding criteria in funding discussions?
  • Do we end SAGE at those schools with poverty levels significantly below the district average (say less than 30%)?
  • Do we take away the .5 supplemental allocated to schools with lower poverty rates?
  • How do we handle programs that serve a lower percentage of low-income students?
  • Do we eliminate advanced courses at the high school or foreign language at the middle school in order to give additional resources to the secondary schools with the highest proportion of low-income students?

I do not have a ready answer to these questions – but they are ones that the Equity Task Force will discuss in considering their recommendations to the Board. The Equity Task Force was specifically requested by a number of parents and the Northside PTO Coalition.

3 thoughts on “Equity and the School Board – No Easy Answers”

  1. Carol,
    Thank you for posting your questions.
    Could you possibly post the Equity Resource Allocation formula, and what various schools received through the formula this year?

  2. Thanks for the additional history and outline Carol. I think that in addition to the info that Ed asked for about the ERF, it would be interesting to see the various weights that relate to each aspect of the formula. For example, how much is mobility weighted versus parental educational level versus home ownership, etc. in the formula. I’m not sure that the district has ever made that level of detail public. I’m sure the task force will get said info. I ask this because our demographics have changed dramatically since the inception of the formula, and I wonder if the weights of each factor have changed proportionally to the demographics.
    I also appreciate your candor about not having answers on how to address the questions you listed. My personal feeling is that these questions (and the whole equity policy issue)are the single most difficult issue a school system can face. Couple that with our community, which is quick to proclaim it’s desire for diversity but even quicker to circle the wagons if the price tag is high as a result of that diversity, and the recipe for disaster is ripe….just look at how sensitive it has gotten in this forum, and the task force hasn’t even been formed.
    (Disclaimer): All of this is my personal opinion and in no way reflects the opinion of the East Attendance Area PTO Coalition (f/k/a the Northside PTO Coalition)!

  3. I don’t have, at the moment, the exact formula – or the school specific allocations. I have included below the general description of what the formula entails. The formula is looked at annually and modified to reflect our own data on the impact of various attributes on achievement.
    The factors selected for the supplemental portion of the formula were arrived at by analyzing the achievement data of MMSD children against such things as poverty, attendance rates, mobility rates, exceptional educational need (EEN) status, and minority status. Ultimately, poverty (as measured by whether or not children qualify for free- or reduced-price lunches) was selected as the most critical factor in determining the supplemental portion of the total allocation.
    Feedback from principals and other administrators indicated that while poverty was unquestionably the most significant variable contributing to student achievement, other factors should be included as well. The formula as it currently stands, includes the following factors in addition to income status: parent education, number of adults living with the child, student mobility, children categorized as EEN, and limited English proficiency.

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