Written by Patricia Hawke for

No parent wants their child to have to attend a school that is sub-standard. We all want our children to get the best education they possibly can. Even those who don’t have kids in school today are interested in the success of the schools and often get involved in supporting their neighborhood schools. The reality is that not all kids get to attend the “top-notch” school. Some, many in fact, wind up in schools that are facing issues that make it hard for them to inspire students to do their best.
Gangs, school violence, lack of funding, and uninspired teaching and administrative staff are all factors that can be associated with failing schools. While money isn’t everything, it sure helps. Having enough funding, and in certain situations, a bit extra can go a long way to tackling the other problems. Boston Public Schools are working to achieve more equality for their schools by changing the way the budget is allocated each year.
Boston Schools are looking into a budget allocation process used by other large urban districts called “weighted student funding”, or WSF. A task force staffed by Boston Schools employees has been formed to look into the plan and determine if it’s something that will help Boston Schools achieve a more equitable distribution of funds. Currently, schools in Boston are not all receiving the funding required to successfully implement the programs they offer.
For example, Traditional Boston Schools have, in the past, been allocated positions, not funds, based on the different types of programs they offer, as well as the number of kids in each program. Pilot Boston Schools, offer higher-cost special and bilingual (not to be confused with English as a 2nd Language students) education programs.
Special Boston Schools, such as the Mann School for the Deaf, are funded based on its students’ special disabilities.
Alternative Boston Schools are funded on an individual basis, with no consistent
requirements across the board. In addition, 10 designated Superintendent’s Schools have
been recently chosen. These Boston Schools have demonstrated consistently low performance. For the ’07-’08 school year, each of these schools will get $1.2 million in extra funds.
In order for Boston Schools to receive a more equitable distribution of funds they would develop “weights” so that the allocations match the needs of the students while still adhering to the priorities of the Boston Schools district. Determining these weights will involve extensive participation from the community. The purpose of this is to institute a formula to evenly determine which schools need what in terms of cash. For example, regular education students are given a weight of 1, students who are leaning to speak English a 1.7, and a moderate special-needs student a 1.6. The whole thing would then be added up, and guidelines for funding would be determined. While this sounds like the same horse with a different color, it can affect more equitable funding for all Boston Schools.