This component of the ECS formula attempts to account for the reality that some children come to a district costing more to educate because they need more services.
In different incarnations of the formula, the Need Students component has represented various groups of needy students, such as low-income students or English Language Learners. The most recent 2013-2014 formula simply accounts for children who are living in poverty (determined by their eligibility for free and reduced price lunch). For each student recorded as living in poverty, the town receives a 30% bonus in the student count. (That means that in towns with lots of students living in poverty, the student count will effectively be increased by about one third.)
For instance, if a town has 20,000 students, and 90% of them (18,000) are living in poverty, then the Need Students weight would be 5,400 (30% of 18,000). Accordingly the town’s student count for the ECS formula would be 25,400.
In contrast, if a wealthier town of 20,000 students had only 1% of students living in poverty, that town’s adjusted student count would only be 20,060. ([20,000] + [30% of 200]).
The ECS formula multiplies the Foundation by the adjusted student count, represented by this Need Students variable. The product represents the entire cost to the town of educating its students.
But the the ECS formula seeks not only to determine the entire cost; it also wants to figure out how much of that cost should be borne by the town, and how much should be supplemented through the state’s education grant. Therefore, the ECS formula has us multiply the town’s entire cost by the “Base Aid Ratio” –in order to determine how much of the entire cost a given town is capable of covering.
Don’t forget, once you understand how the variables of the formula work together, there are still some strange exceptions and complications to read about!