Policy options available for Martinez
Can the WSF work the way it should if it is not coupled with site-based management?
Would it make sense for the Renaissance Schools to introduce school choice along with the WSF?
What is the best way to implement the WSF? What are the pros and cons of each option?
To: Pedro Martinez
Subject: Defining Equity Case
a). Policy options available for Martinez
Martinez can develop various policy frameworks in his position as a Budget Director for Chicago Public School (CPS). First of all, he should determine the budgeting framework to be implemented. Therefore, he should come up with a policy framework on whether to use the average or actual teacher salaries; whether to allow schools to employ the teaching staff with little regard to the salary levels or let the schools employ teachers based on a mixed approach that focussed on meeting the schools’ per-pupil budget. In addition, he needs to develop a policy on whether to expand the budgeting system to cover the whole district. There was also an urgent need to develop a policy framework on the formula to be used in determining of student weights (The Electronic Hallway, p. 1).
There are certain characteristics associated with a successful policy framework. A good policy should have an enabling purpose. In this case, the policy’s aims need to be clear and applicable in a general sense. A good policy should also be linked to a wider objective. This helps concerned individuals to focus on the main goal of the policy. Also, a good policy should have a clear ownership. In this case, the policy is not seen as being imposed on the people against their will. A good policy must also be short and clear. This enables the people concerned to understand the policy and agree with the policy requirements. Another characteristic of a good policy is that it must emanate from a valid process. In this regard, people should understand the policy process in a clear manner. Another aspect of good policy is that it should work within the restrictions of a certain authority. The authority enables the stakeholders to adopt and abide by the regulations of the policy framework. A good policy needs to be enforced or rather, enforceable and adaptable. However, it should be acknowledged that no single policy is perfect and may require some adjustments during implementation(“2 Policy”, p. 15-16).
Martinez had various things that he was aiming at in his new role as a Budget Director for CPS. In general, Martinez wanted to initiate an innovative budgeting scheme to be used within the Chicago Public Schools. In achieving his vision, there are certain elements that cannot be realistically possible to achieve. However, there are others that could realistic while implementing the vision. In this case, it can be argued that Martinez stands to achieve the pupil budgeting scheme commonly known as the Weighted Student Formula (WSF) in providing a solution to the budgeting issue. However, he should be ready to face spirited opposition on his new formula to be used in budgetary allocation to schools. Although people are opposed to the WSF, Martinez should convince them of the benefits that come with this formula. In this case, he should provide assurances on the fears being raised regarding this formula (The Electronic Hallway, p. 1).
b). Can the WSF work the way it should if it is not coupled with site-based management?
The WSF can work in the appropriate manner even if it is not coupled with site-based management. As seen in the data from the regions that have already adopted this formula in their budgetary allocation, it can be observed that some schools stood to get more funding than they were used to getting before whereas others would receive less money than before. Veronica Anderson, the editor of Chicago Catalyst, noted “per-pupil funding will mean less money for schools that enrol better-off kids, unless CPS factors something into the formula to offset that effect” (The Electronic Hallway, p. 10). It should be noted that the Chicago Public School District is made up of different school categories. This includes the Chartered schools owned by private and non-profit entities but administered by the district. These schools, through the use of the WSF, stands to gain a lot since they are usually underfunded (The Electronic Hallway, p. 10).
The implementation of the WSF was not going to benefit the small schools given their small number of students. In other districts where WSF was being implemented such as Houston, Seattle and Edmonton, this disadvantage was addressed through the subsidies that were extended to the small schools, or through the gradual introduction of WSF over the years. The Chicago Public School District intended to use the same criteria in its WSF plan. This approach was not acceptable in some quarters on the argument that it presented a fundamental inequity and undue advantage to small schools. However, this remained to be the most viable means of addressing the disadvantage that was to be experienced by small schools (The Electronic Hallway, p. 10).
Given the worries of the stakeholders in the implementation of the WSF, it was necessary that CPS assured them of the efficiency that will come with the approach. There was a feeling among stakeholders that the subsidies for the small schools promoted inequity and only acted to make the proposed Renaissance 2010 work. Also, the principals of various schools with the Chicago Public School District were sceptical of the new formula. Therefore, it was important to convince the various stakeholders on the positives that relate to the WSF budgetary formula. Notably, the WSF formula was better than the conventional approaches in which the schools were rewarded basing on performance gains (The Electronic Hallway, p. 11).
c). Would it make sense for the Renaissance Schools to introduce school choice along with the WSF?
The aspect of introducing school choice together with the WSF would present some challenges in the CPS. Although some proponents have argued that doing so would enhance accountability of the schools to parents, there is a likelihood of promoting segregation in schools. This is because families would obviously choose to have their children attend schools close to their home. This will promote segregation in the sense that people usually settles in clusters based on race. Integrating WSF and school choice in the name of promoting local control would be a forum of justifying inequality and segregation. Such a plan would be a gentrification strategy aimed at moving the minority groups from the real estate areas and catering for the interests of the developers. Those opposed to the plan noted “the reality is that the cause of a failed education system is a history of racism, lack of equal opportunity to learn, deindustrialisation, and disinvestment in communities of colour by corporate interest and banks with the support of political leaders” (The Electronic Hallway, p. 9). Although the CPS administrators made assurances that they were going to ensure that segregation in schools does not occur, this can be quite challenging given the situation. Therefore, it does not make sense for the Renaissance Schools to introduce school choice alongside the WSF budget formula (The Electronic Hallway, p. 9).
d). What is the best way to implement the WSF? What are the pros and cons of each option?
Deciding on the weights to be used was a major challenge. In choosing the best equity, both horizontal and vertical equities must be ensured. The horizontal equity refers to the equal treatment accorded to equals whereas the vertical treatment refers to the suitable unequal treatment of those who are not equal. The implementation of the WSF was an example of ensuring horizontal equity. The achievement of vertical equity was also necessary to ensure that the general equity has been achieved. This is important, but very contentious to implement (The Electronic Hallway, p. 9).
In achieving vertical equity, the right base funding rate for every student should be determined. This should be together with the weights determined by the needs of the students. In regard to the basic rates, their weights would be established basing on the amount that each district spends on each category of specific-needs students divided by the number of students in each group. The average numbers from each category would be turned into a ratio basing on the spending average for essential services in order to get the final weights (The Electronic Hallway, p. 9).
Martinez had two ways of implementing the WSF. On one hand, he was to integrate the WSF with the school choice and this brought a lot of challenges in respect to its implementation. The other way of implementing the WSF was through integration of the aspect of teachers’ salaries during implementation. The proponents of this approach argued it was the best in enhancing the schools’ accountability to parents, as opposed to the conventional system that made schools only accountable to the political class. However, this was opposed by those individuals who saw the integration of school choice as meant to promote segregation. In this case, it can be argued that though the integration of WSF with school choice would bring local control, this will establishes inequality and segregation (The Electronic Hallway, p. 8-9).
The other way of implementing the WSF is by integrating it with the salary consideration of teachers. The bone of contention was on whether to use the average teacher salaries or the actual salaries while implementing the WSF formula. Many stakeholders seemed to agree on the use of average salaries in the implementation of the WSF. This was acceptable among those who subscribed to the WSF system arguing that the use of actual teacher salary would lead to controversies. They argued that if actual salaries were used, the school principals would favour the recruitment of young teachers who are cheap to maintain. The teachers unions also favoured the use of average salaries. They argued that the use of actual salaries would not be good for senior teachers. This is because the senior teachers had spent a lot of time to enhance their level of compensation. However, those opposed to the use of average teachers’ pay argued that it hid inequalities that were rampant within the Chicago Public School District. Therefore, it can be asserted that the best way of implementing the WSF was to integrate it with the average salary of the teachers in the district (The Electronic Hallway, p. 9).
2 Policy. n.d. Web. June 6, 2012.
The Electronic Hallway.Defining Equity: Implementing the Weighted Student Formula in Chicago Public Schools. n.d.