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The Phantom Menace: Policies That Protect Districts from Declining or Low Enrollments, Drive Up Spending, and Inhibit Adaptation. The Productivity for Results Series No. 6

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Document pages: 16 pages

Abstract: Many state education leaders are taking a fresh look at their school finance formulas in hopes of finding ways to contain costs and get more for their dollar. That is an understandable response given that education is the largest item on most state budgets. This paper examines how current funding practices lead to inefficiencies, particularly through the funding of "phantom students. " The authors explain current accounting procedures in K-12 education, propose ways to make them more precise, and discuss how ending these practices would reduce costs and encourage districts to innovate. This paper begins with a short section describing the typical operational relationship between expenditures and revenues in districts to set the stage for how state allocations affect spending behavior in districts. Next, the authors describe each of the four policies funding phantom students and dig deeper into the rationale for the policies, why the rationale doesn t necessarily hold true, and the expense of the policy.

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