Should school funding be tied to enrollment or to attendance?

Cinque Henderson argues that school funding should be tied to enrollment, not attendance: How some school funding formulas hurt learning and make schools more dangerous.

Attendance-based school funding hurts our most vulnerable students by pressuring educators to keep unruly – sometimes violent – children in school. Add to that the recent push to ban suspensions altogether, and the schools in our toughest areas feel no different from the rough streets that schools, at least in part, are designed to provide poor students an escape from.

These funding formulas put educators in a no-win situation: If they suspend or expel disruptive children, they lose out on money to provide educational services to other students who need it. If they keep misbehaving children in school, that threatens the safety of the staff and cripples the learning process. Teachers can’t teach when they are forced to babysit recalcitrant students in their classrooms. Allowing states to, in essence, punish the vast majority of students — those who are well-behaved and show up to school every day willing to learn — for the indifference or truancy of the minority who are chronically absent seems fundamentally unfair.

Henderson, who was a writer for HBO’s The Newsroom and is working on a book about America’s public schools. says, “As Congress debates this month the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, the nation’s primary education law, lawmakers should consider how states distribute the federal funds they receive for schools.”

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