New Models and Trends in Resource Allocation

Many investigators have requested new methods to determine spending to gain a better understanding of priorities, organizational investments, proposed strategies, and to measure the distribution of resources . Completely new expenditure models have been pioneered by manufacturing theorists, including activity and program-based costs, which help form fiscal data to make it easier to compare to strategic decision-making. In education, several reports have demanded new methods of expense record-keeping as a way to modify district strategy; mostly to verify the real expenses involved in individual schools, programs, or services.

Though the models demonstrate some differences regarding the terms of the categories used, all of them propose assigning a larger percentage of costs to specific types of students and schools. For those interested in resource data in relation to the context of educating students, it makes sense to review central and indirect costs associated with joint district resources, as well as resources that are typically school-based. Less important costs are associated with district leadership, other operations, and non-educational services like transportation, food services, school facilities, and maintenance systems.

Reforms related to accountability have placed a focus on performance inequalities between white students and students from minority group backgrounds, and also between students having needs that result from disability, poverty, or limitation in English proficiency. Many policymakers stress that the first stage in tackling these achievement gaps is to align fiscal policy with student needs. But as policymakers change their established funding formulas to fulfill the needs of different students, they do so without evidence. In the first instance, there is little explanation of the way resources are currently allotted to different subgroups.

Basically, for a state policymaker attempting to allocate funds to particular student types, no baseline data exists on current expenditure to each type of student within their own districts, or schools within other districts. School districts in most states do not fully track costs by student type or to the school level. Even where these data are tracked, they are not published for policymakers trying to pin answers down.

There is also difficulty in accessing comparisons from other states regarding spending. Accurate ways of defining or reporting expenses influenced by student needs are not available, which makes it impossible to compare data between states. Furthermore, policymakers have not determined how to flow funds from one level of government to the next. For example, funds may be designated by the federal government for students living in poverty, with the goal of enhancing resources at schools having high concentrations of poverty.

However, by the time funds are dispersed through state and local streams, they may not reach their intended target. Finally, only limited documentation exists on different decisions for assigning funds, and the way those decisions relate to policy goals. Allocations meant for students with limited English proficiency (LEP) might be realized as a fixed dollar amount per LEP student, reimbursements for spending on bilingual education services, distribution of staff full-time equivalents (FTEs) to high-needs schools, or as funds for other areas. Research has not yet described the ways these different decisions influence either what is finally spent per pupil, or how efficiently that funding reaches the intended students. It is obvious that a more efficient system is needed for tracking funds after they reach their intended destination. With thorough record keeping and well-defined guidelines for how money should be spent, this murky territory will become much clearer.


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