AISD board considers student-based funding allocation for FY 2014

A student-based funding allocation model could be in the future for Austin ISD.

The Austin ISD board of trustees passed its proposed budget parameters unanimously Sept. 24 after thorough deliberation on the wording of one parameter involving the possibility of implementing a student-based, or "weighted" funding model for the 2014–15 school year.

The same parameter highlighted the need to address allocation inequities in the district's current funding model.

Superintendent Meria Carstarphen explained the board now operates on a staffing-based funding allocation model.

"At the end of the day, there are three ways that you fund schools: staff, buildings, kids," she said, adding that other successful districts have used student-based funding models. Student-based allocation, which will be considered as a funding method, provides campuses with funds based on the number of students on each campus and those students' differentiated needs, rather than the number of staff employed by a particular school, which determines staff-based funding.

Trustee Vincent Torres suggested three phases for determining the best option for a new model: data collection and analysis, discussion and vetting with the community, and implementation.

While the process still has to be determined, one thing is certain, according to trustee Tamala Barksdale.

"Every person here wants to address inequities in the district," she said.

Trustee Robert Schneider pointed out the wording of the proposed parameter indicated the board would certainly implement such a funding model in the 2014–15 school year and said the idea has not been properly vetted.

"There has been zero input from the public on this," he said. "We don't even have an agreement on what 'inequities' are. There has been no proof that changing the funding is going to increase school performance in any way."

AISD board President Mark Williams emphasized that while the wording of that parameter should be reworded, the board must find a way to address the issue.

"We haven't locked ourselves into anything other than to investigate," he said. "I think if it came back and they did this analysis and determined that what we're doing today is the absolute best way to fund schools, I don't think the administration would recommend a change."