by David Safier
Jan Brewer has given us a new toy, a K-12 Performance Funding Calculator. Plug in a school's current state grade score, then plug in what you think the score will be the next year, and out comes the school's Performance Funding for the next year.
It's important to know as I run through a few examples, the bill, SB1444, has the Performance Funding ramping up over 5 years, so the first year schools will only get 20% of what should come from the model. That's why all the numbers are lower than I indicated in the series of posts I wrote about Performance Funding. The following year schools will get 40%, then 60% and so on.
So, let's look at Catalina Foothills High, a school with affluent students (6% are on free/reduced lunch) that earned an A grade with a score of 157 (140 or higher is an A). If the school shows no improvement, it will get $44.64 extra per student. Once the full funding model kicks in after 5 years, that number will be $223.20 extra per student.
Now let's look at TUSD's Pueblo High, a school where 89% of the students are Hispanic and 79% are on free/reduced lunch. It got a D grade with a score of 99, one point below a C. If it shows no improvement, it will actually lose $17.26 per student (that would be an $86.30 loss under full funding), because a D school gets no performance funding, and $17.26 is taken from every school's budget and put into the Performance Funding pot.
Let's see what would happen if each of the schools had a 5 point improvement. Cat Foothills High would go up to $69.57 per student, and Pueblo High would get $21.08. A 10 point improvement would take Cat Foothills High to $92 per student and Pueblo High to $58.01. The funding gap narrows when both schools improve at the same numerical level because schools with lower scores get more funding for each point of improvement, which is the only good thing about Brewer's model. But it still doesn't nearly close the gap. Cat Foothills High is being rewarded because its high income students achieve at a high level, as high income students do all over the world, and Pueblo is punished because its low income students achieve at a lower level, as they do all over the world. The boost from improvement helps the low performing schools for awhile, but eventually most of them will hit a performance ceiling and their funding will drop.
As a side note, there's an odd disincentive that comes from funding the program at 20% the first year and taking five years to ramp up to 100%. A school that makes rapid improvement over the next few years will only see a fraction of the money they'd get if they waited four or five years to improve. A go-getter school that improves, say, 25 points in the next two years, will only see a quarter of what it would get if it put the brakes on its scores until the model kicked in at 100%. Ideally, that school would continue to improve at that high rate, getting some money now and more later, but in the real world, that's rarely going to happen. Schools like Pueblo High with a score of 99 will likely plateau somewhere between 115 — a high C — to 125 points — a low B. If it makes the maximum effort and stabilizes at the higher 125 mark, it will get $50 per student at 100% funding for the rest of its Performance Funding days, while Cat Foothills High will keep getting its $223.20 per student with zero improvement so long as it keeps filling its classrooms with high income students.