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Making Money Matter: Financing America's Schools
invested might represent new funds or funds transferred from some other, presumably less effective, use.
A third generic strategy for school finance reform would emphasize altering incentives to make performance count. This strategy embraces changes in incentives that are designed to operate primarily within the existing system of governance. Changes in incentives that might result from major changes in governance and management structures, such as the introduction of a significantly greater role for schools or parents (or both) in finance decisions, are reserved for the fourth strategy. Strategy 3 emphasizes the development of accountability and funding systems that give teachers, schools, or students incentives to focus on student achievement.
A fourth generic strategy would focus on empowering schools or parents or both to make decisions about the use of public funds. This strategy embraces finance reforms that would promote major changes in governance and management by shifting the locus of decision making. It represents the most significant break with current school finance practice because it promises significant change in who gets to decide how education dollars are spent. Not surprisingly, then, it can be expected to arouse the most heated passions, with contentiousness related to how far particular policy options consistent with the strategy (school-site autonomy, for example, versus vouchers usable at both public and private schools) move decision making away from familiar patterns. It is likely, therefore, that even more than with the other strategies, the position individuals take on policy options consistent with strategy 4 will typically rest on more than the evidence about what the strategy might contribute to fairness and productivity. Views about the desirability of shifting decision making on the grounds that it will increase student achievement are balanced with additional considerations, such as how broken the current educational system is perceived to be, support for the tradition of public education, and attitudes toward the freedom for families to choose the children with whom their children will associate.
These four generic strategies reflect the broad choices available to policy makers as they debate specific policy options for reforming education finance programs. The four strategies do not encompass every specific policy that might be proposed for improving the finance system,9 nor do policy options fit neatly and unambiguously within one or another strategy as defined here. There is also
Nor do they directly address many reform strategies, such as changes in curriculum or the way it is taught, that are not primarily financial in nature but that people closely involved in the provision of education services might deem crucial to educational improvement. Likewise, they do not address changes in governance, such as the recent moves in some states to give direct control of selected big city school districts to mayors. Mayoral control (being tried in Boston, Baltimore, Cleveland, and Chicago) clearly alters lines of accountability, but there is nothing inherent structurally in this governance chance that necessarily alters the distribution of financial resources.