Evaluation of Hawaii's Weighted Student Formula

Jay Chambers
Diana Epstein
Nick Mills
Mahala Archer
Antonia Wang
Kevin Lane

In June 2013, AIR completed an initial evaluation of the patterns of resource allocation and the attitudes and perspectives of various stakeholders about the implementation of Hawaii's weighted student formula (WSF). Hawaii has a significant history of exploring alternative funding and governance structures, which culminated in the 2006–07 adoption of the WSF as a means to provide a more equitable system of school finance; streamline the allocation of resources to schools; and usher in a process for increasing local authority (including school leadership, parents, and community members) over educational decision making.

The evaluation investigated five research questions concerning the implementation of the Hawaii WSF:

  • How was the WSF originally developed, and what changes to the formula have been made since its initial implementation in 2006-07?
  • How have other states and districts incorporated weights and WSF structures into their funding systems?
  • What do the perceptions of principals and stakeholders tell us about the extent to which Hawaii's WSF has achieved: 1) Increasing both school discretion over funding and the degree to which local community participates in decision making pertaining to budgeting and planning; 2) Improving innovation and accountability of school leadership; and 3) promoting equity and transparency in how funding is allocated to schools?
  • Has there been significant improvement in the equity with which resources are allocated to schools?
  • What have been the major successes and challenges in the implementation of the Hawaii WSF since its inception?

The findings of this evaluation show that implementation of Hawaii’s WSF appears to have gained widespread acceptance among school leaders and some key stakeholders within the state. It has generated an increased awareness among these constituencies of how funding is distributed to Hawaii’s public schools and has generally increased the equity with which funds are allocated among schools serving the diverse populations of students across the state.

Image of Jesse Levin
Principal Economic Researcher