Utah Bill Would Allow for Dynamic, Student-Centered Funding

The Utah Legislature is considering an entirely new approach to education funding, the Salt Late City Tribune reports. The new system will give students and their parents almost complete control over their academic experience, and will take the idea of school choice to a wholly different level. The new system can more likely be called "class choice."

The proposal, introduced by State Representative John Dougall, would create a savings account for the student, and, the state would deposit funds directly into the account and allow the student to determine where and how to spend it. The state will dispense $6000 per student per year, which is enough to cover 8 high school credits, on the assumption that each class costs $700. The money in the account will roll over from year to year, if it is unspent. And if some is left over after the student graduates, it can be put towards college expenses.

The system's flexibility comes from the fact that the student isn't limited to a particular school. He can choose between classes offered at any school in the state, even outside his school district. The money can also be used to take classes at charter schools or even join online courses.

Dougall said that the new system would solve the problem of parents like those of a straight-A high school students who wished to take an AP class not offered in his local school, but offered at another school, called Skyline, in the district. His attempts to enroll in the class at a different campus, while still remaining a student at his home school failed, partly due to the rules associated with state education funding.

Dougall hopes that with the bill's passage, such issues would resolve themselves. Although maybe not: administrators at Skyline said that they wouldn't have enrolled the student even if they could, for the class was already full.

There are no details available yet on how this system can be implemented but the 5-year old Eddie, who blogs at EdIsWatching.org, isn't concerned by the lack of specifics.

Working out the details will have to be done. But since when did we let that keep us from accomplishing bold objectives — like going to the moon? We're not talking about risky reforms to curricula, programs and educational philosophies so common in bygone days. We're talking about shifting the levers of power to serve students, the customers of K-12 education, first and foremost. Let the discussions proceed.

Some, like Granite District Superindendent Martin Bates is concerned that the system might unfairly penalize ambitious and striving students who might run out of credits allotted under the system. Dougall, however, says that the built-in "buffers" should take care of that. Over four years, a high-school student gets enough money for 32 education credits, while only needing 24 to graduate. He is sure that the 8 extra credits should give students who want to get a little extra out of high school enough room to maneuver.

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