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Universal Money-Follows-the-Child: Talk About Bureaucratic Nightmare

February 22, 2023

The idea of taxpayer funding for K12 education following the student– “funding portability”– is not new. Following the COVID pandemic and the closing of schools (or following a virtual model that taxed family functioning and internet capabilities) has contributed to a rise in public willingness to consider funding portability. Conservative organizations like the Reason Foundation are ready to offer suggestions on how to institute universal funding portability “and ensure funds flow seamlessly across district boundaries.”

As I read the Reason article linked above, my first thought was on how it would require a monstrous bureaucracy to administer and track funding sent directly to the parents/guardians of each student. This cannot be understated. Consider the mess it would be, say, if the funding went to an old bank account, or wrong bank account. Consider the bureaucratic mess it would present if a child transferred schools at an inconvenient time. So many bank accounts to keep straight. So many payments or partial payments to track to parent from state, or from parent to correct school. Not just any school– the school at which student attendance has been verified.

Now think of this on the level of hundreds or thousands or hundreds of thousands of students.

In order for the transfer of funds to proceed “seamlessly” (Reason’s word), it would entail rules and guidelines, and accountability departments and scheduled, incremental payments, and stop-payment procedures for the school the student no longer attended. It would mean an established appeals process when money was sent to the wrong school, or in the name of the wrong child even in the same household (say, if several children attend different schools, even in different counties or states).

I haven’t even mentioned the bureaucracy needed to to both combat and confront acts of fraud committed by those disbursing and receiving funds.

Universal funding portability would also mean school and district budgets being thrown into chaos because money supposed to arrive one child at a time doesn’t just show up like idyllic magic.

None of this is smooth, and none of this is easy, and none of this is wondrously seamless.

Astoundingly, the cost of the ballooned bureaucracy is not taken into consideration at all. A huge bureaucracy demands a diet of major money. And yet, the Reason Foundation just assumes some utopian, bureaucracy-free, auxilliary-cost-free “seamless” disburing and arrival of funds exactly where they should go and when. However, those of us residing in the real world know that anything resembling seamlessness must be well planned (including contingencies) and amply resourced by multi-level competence, which means…

Universal funding portability would require a monstrous (and mightily-financed) bureaucracy.


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  1. Christine Langhoff permalink

    You, Mercedes, always with the practicalities. Though you’re cursed with a logical mind, you’re in good company!

  2. Peter permalink

    You are assuming that the goal would be a system that tracked the funds carefully with an eye to oversight and accountability. A system that simply handed parents a pile of money and then washed its hands of the whole business would have no such problems.

  3. Zorba permalink

    Reblogged this on Politicians Are Poody Heads.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Mercedes Schneider: How to Create a Bureaucratic Nightmare | Diane Ravitch's blog

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