When was the last time you took a look at your funding model to see if it’s cohesive with your district’s story? Many districts are realizing that legacy methods of funding and staffing allocation are producing spending patterns that are equal, no equitable. What does this mean for your district? There can be dollars that can be spent in other areas to satisfy student needs. Let’s take a look at staff-based allocations and student-based allocations to find ways to make it more equitable.
What are Staff-Based Allocations?
Traditionally, dollars are allocated to schools primarily through personnel-based ratios of Full-Time Equivalents (FTEs), with some modest per-pupil allocations for discretionary spending.
- Staff-based ratios (e.g., 1 teacher per 18 students, 1 counselor per 450 students, 1 principal per school)
- Per-pupil allocations for products/services (e.g., technology, materials and supplies, food, student activities)
Staff-based allocations steer dollars using FTE ratios of staff-to-students. These allocations may produce school-level budgets that are more equal than equitable. One way to achieve more equitable allocations is to provide extra staff FTE based on student subgroups. For example, additional literacy and mathematics coaches may be allocated with a ratio to students eligible for Free or Reduced-Price Lunch (FRPL), rather than to all students in a school. Students with certain disabilities may be associated with additional paraprofessional staff.
Staff-based allocations can present some challenges when it comes to decisions about pro-rating allocations when the enrollment ratios are imperfect. For example, if a district allocates one teacher per 20 students, should a second teacher be allocated when there are 21 students? 25 students? 30 students? Decisions about when to round up or round down may create unintentional resource inequities.
What are Student-Based Allocations?
Student-based allocation (SBA) is a system in which dollars-based resources are allocated based on the enrollment of students at each school. This practice is known by many different names, including Student-Based Budgeting (SBB), Weighted Student Funding/Formulas (WSF), and Fair Student Funding (FSF).
Districts often use student-based allocations to provide additional dollars to student subgroups that, presumably, require more resources to educate. Districts attempt to advance fiscal equity by allocating additional dollars-based resources based on enrollment within those particular student subgroups at each school.
As a result, per-pupil amounts may vary based on student demographics or on the allocation of specific resources on a per student basis (for example, $10 per student for instructional supplies). Because schools are funded per student, the amount of funding attached to each child will vary based on their needs as defined within the funding formula.
With student-based allocations, individual students may be given additional funding based on characteristics (for example, students eligible for Free or Reduced-Price Lunch (FRPL), English Language Learners (ELL), or Student with Disabilities (SWD)) in the form of dollars, which can be used to purchase staffing FTEs or other resources. One advantage of student-based allocations is that they can be more “precise”— unlike staffing rules, there are no big discontinuities when adding an additional staff member. Additional resources can come as little as a dollar at a time. This way, if an extra teacher is too expensive, a school might still have additional resources to use on other supports.
Most districts use both staff-based and student-based allocation systems
Few districts allocate all resources to schools using strictly staff-based allocations or student-based allocations. Nearly all schools will allocate some resources based on staffing ratios and others based on student counts. Different resource allocation formulas may fall anywhere on a continuum from entirely staff-based to entirely student-based and still achieve similar results with careful consideration for how student needs are embedded into the formulas.
Curious to learn more?
Download our free eBook Better than Equal to get access to three example K-12 resource allocation models, thoughtful reflections on building equitable formulas, and practical advice for district leaders.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Allovue works with districts and state departments of education across the country to allocate, budget, and manage spending. Allovue's software suite integrates seamlessly with existing accounting systems to make sure every dollar works for every student. Allovue also provides additional services such as chart of accounts and funding formula revisions.