Edunomics Lab - Spending patterns, equity, and achievement in WSF districts

Variation Is the Norm: A Landscape Analysis of Weighted Student Funding Implementation

Marguerite Roza, Katherine Hagan, and Laura Anderson
Published in Public Budgeting & Finance, November 2020

School districts increasingly rely on weighted student funding (WSF), yet there is little research on this allocation model. This study collects more than 70 measures on each of 19 districts using WSF in 2018 for a landscape analysis of formula features and implementation practices.

While districts report common reasons for adopting WSF (equity, flexibility, and transparency), the study finds no standard WSF model. Homegrown formulas and nonformula features and exemptions reflecting local context are the norms, resulting in substantial differences. Nearly all districts continue to budget with average salaries (likely limiting equity) but grant principals flexibility on staffing, stipends, and contracts.