Schwarzenegger's Education Secretary, Richard Riordan wants to completely redo California's student funding formula. This is a good thing.
Under the approach Riordan has in mind, students would trigger uniform "weighted" dollar allotments for their schools, based on their learning needs, rather than the random and inequitable amounts they now generate for their districts.
Such a shift would mark the first time in three decades that California has fundamentally addressed one of the most convoluted, political and deeply entrenched aspects of state spending -- and the biggest, at $41 billion a year.
"We need to start from scratch and do a systematic reform of the entire system," said Riordan, the former mayor of Los Angeles, who has long been involved in school reform efforts.
Earlier this week, the education secretary visited the Edmonton school system in Alberta, Canada, which uses a weighted formula that provides all students a uniform amount of basic education money, then adds on a standard supplemental amount for those with greater needs, such as the poor. The system stands in stark contrast to California's, which has a thousand different base funding amounts for children -- one for every district -- and then adds uneven amounts of money for other needs.
Riordan said Edmonton puts much of the money directly into the hands of school principals, something he and Schwarzenegger would like to see in California to reduce bureaucracy and encourage greater personal accountability for student achievement.