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Graphs for Paul Kiln

Betsy Wolf

DCPS: How schools are funded in DCPS is largely based on enrollment.

Graphs for Paul Kiln
Betsy Wolf
DCPS: But schools are not equal in terms of special education, at-risk, and English learner students, and
the UPSFF formulas and at-risk legislation indicate that extra resources should be provided to schools
serving historically disadvantaged children. When you look at expenditures on staff per pupil, schools
serving greater proportions of at-risk students appear to receive more resources.

DCPS: But much of the extra resources are going to cover special education costs. So when you examine
differences in spending on instructional staff per pupil, you see inequity in funding. This is a very
common finding in school finance literature.
Graphs for Paul Kiln
Betsy Wolf

DCPS: DCPS forces schools to use their at-risk funding to meet special education requirements. At-risk
money often funds social workers and psychologists, but these positions are largely used to meet IEP
requirements. In fact, DCPS allocates these staff to schools on the basis of students’ IEP hours, and social
workers and psychologists do not have the capacity to serve non-sped children. Therefore, schools
serving higher proportions of special education students are at a disadvantage in that more of their
budgets goes to special education and there are fewer remaining resources to supplement general
instruction or provide other supports to non-sped students.
Graphs for Paul Kiln
Betsy Wolf
Charters: The special education funding issue hurts DCPS schools more so than charter schools.
Although the charter sector serves roughly 50% of the special education population, this statistic is
misleading because a few alternative charters serve 100% special education students, and when you
look at the remaining charters, charter schools serve fewer special education students, given their
proportion of at-risk. Based on data explorations, I’ve concluded that this is probably because special
education students are self-selecting into DCPS schools more often than charters.
Graphs for Paul Kiln
Betsy Wolf

Charters: I should also note that I can’t produce most of the same graphs for the charter sector because
there is very little accessible data on charter schools.


1. Change the funding formula (UPSFF) to add an extra weight for schools serving concentrations of
historically disadvantaged students. California does this: For every disadvantaged student about
a 55% threshold, districts receive an additional weight to address issues that arise when districts
and schools are serving concentrations of students living in poverty. The same principle could be
applied to schools in DC serving concentrations of disadvantaged students.
2. Separate out the special education costs and then examine the equity of spending across
3. Understand why DCPS does not have adequate funding to provide at-risk schools with
substantially more resources. To what extent is inadequate funding due to inefficiency in central
office versus unfair allocations from the mayor’s budget?
4. Keep in mind the nuance. Statistics produced by the education agencies are misleading at best
and dishonest at worst.
5. Ask for help. There are so many parents who work in the education sector who are willing to
help you improve schools. One problem and cause for mistrust is that agency officials don’t have
kids in the school system, so there is a major disconnect between policies as intended and
what’s actually happening on the ground.