What is Student Centered Funding – AKA the Betsy DeVos Voucher Scheme?

Student Centered Funding or Student Based Budgeting is a fundamental shift in resource allocation in LAUSD – or, as we’re going to call it from here on out, the Betsy DeVos Voucher Scheme.

Currently, our neighborhood schools are assigned a certain number of teachers, counselors, librarians, nurses, social workers, therapists, aides, maintenance workers, programs, etc. based on the enrollment, with some increased resources directed to schools with identified higher needs. All programs and resources that we have fought tireless for – and went on strike for six days to win – to ensure that every student has a strong foundation in every neighborhood school within the district.



In a huge initial victory, LAUSD is withdrawing its motion on Student-Centered Funding from consideration at today’s School Board meeting.


In the proposed SCF Model, the district would send schools dollars instead of ensuring a strong foundation of programs, educators, and staff. Funding for each school would be determined by calculating a specific dollar figure for every single student in the district, with different dollar amounts assigned based on individual student characteristics. The principal would then use that pot of cash to “buy” educators and programs and maintain the campus. Where the student goes, their “backpack of cash” travels with them. And here’s the kicker: LAUSD would be the first and only district in the nation to bundle their federal funds into these “backpacks full of cash”.



  • DeVos and Trump: DeVos rolled out the Well Rounded Student Grant in  February 2018. It was one of the first grant opportunities the DeVos US Department of Education rolled out. Read the news article here.

  • ALEC – provided a road map for states to implement intradistrict vouchers as early as 2010. They’re also the folks behind anti-union Janus, behind voter suppression, and corporate personhood. Details here.

  • ERS (Education Resource Strategies): The folks who wrote Beutner’s Hard Choices document – the ones who said that LAUSD educators got paid too much and worked too little.

Who Is Behind Student Centered Funding – AKA the Betsy DeVos Voucher Scheme?

Privatizer quotes praising SCF

“If all goes well, the pilots will demonstrate that weighted student funding enables the most money to follow students down to the school level and provides incentives for schools to compete for students— particularly those with higher needs. It will show that portability of federal funding is possible and beneficial. Then, with expansion in 2019–20, choice programs across the country will face one fewer obstacle to their success.”  – Thomas B. Fordham Institute: An ideologically conservative non-profit education policy group in Washington that advocates for school choice. Their funders include the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and the Exxon Mobil Corporation.

“[SCF] promote[s] simplicity and more reliable funding for schools in exchange for funding portability that allows students to take their per-pupil funding to another public school, district, or charter school.” – ALEC: American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is an organization of conservative legislators and corporations who support right wing policies.  ALEC’s political platform includes supporting school voucher programs and “right to work” to weaken bargaining power and lower wages of working people. Their legislative members are overwhelmingly Republicans, and they are funded by groups such as the Koch Family, Allegheny Foundation and Castle Rock Foundation. 

    “It [student based budgeting] also forces districts to do the student-by-student calculations that could enable private-school vouchers — making student-based budgeting a gateway policy for voucher advocates such as U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.” Chalkbeat: Why the Trump administration wants school districts to change their budgets — and how Title I could stand in the way

    SCF Is Student Based Budgeting. So What’s The Matter with it?


    Picture every student with a dollar amount floating over their head, and now imagine every school competing to enroll that student so the school can add that student’s dollars to its budget. That’s the crux of SBB.

    According to SBB boosters, this approach ensures equal spending per student and gives schools more autonomy over the budgeting process. But in reality, SBB is grossly unfair. The system assigns the same funding to each student regardless of the student’s needs, and this approach has had a disastrous impact on neighborhood schools, especially on predominantly Black schools on the South and West sides of Chicago.  

    What Happened In Chicago?


    We had a chance to talk with Styles Avant Pinkston, a young man who was a student in Chicago Public Schools when they did their version of this voucher scheme. Here is some of what he said:

    “This is an attack on kids of color and minority communities. You never hear about schools in wealthy white neighborhoods shutting down – they invest in those schools. Schools can be turned around if they want to. If they see value in doing that. They just don’t see the value in those communities. The way to change this, you have to fund. You don’t hear about white schools closing. If it’s struggling, they get resources. They aren’t allowed to fail.”


    The Alternative: Community Schools

    What’s the alternative? Community schools – which are proven to improve outcomes and revitalize communities, and which has won unprecedented increases in funding from the state and district.

    Community Schools Revitalize Communities.


    Click the red links to read more about Student Centered Funding.

    Secretary DeVos Announces New Student-Centered Funding Pilot Program




    Opportunities and Challenges of Student-Based Budgeting -Like most funding distribution systems, student-based budgeting (SBB) comes with a set of opportunities and challenges.

    Why the Trump administration wants school districts to change their budgets — and how Title I could stand in theway



    Flexibility for Equitable Per-Pupil Spending Under Title I, Part E of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act


    The Student-Centered Funding Act would create a student-centered finance model based on aweighted student formula in which money “follows” a child to his or her school.