Report: Results Doesn’t Follow Money in Schools

As education issues continue to dominate headlines, a recurring thread is about funding—who provides it and how much. According to a report from the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL), though, there may be a funding “wall” where giving schools more money has negligible effect on student achievement. WILL’s study of Wisconsin public schools did not find evidence of a relationship between spending and student outcomes and instead believes that providing students with greater access to school choice could have more impact.

In the report, the researchers examine the Wisconsin education environment and why it reflects the state of education across the U.S. For example, Wisconsin spends over $1,000 more than the U.S. average, ranking 16th out of 50 states. Yet, like the U.S., Wisconsin does not seem to be receiving a good return when measured against global benchmarks. In addition, it looks at the outcomes of the school choice program and how the benefits could spread to other communities.

Key Findings

  1. No consistent relationship between real (i.e. inflation-adjusted) per-pupil spending by districts and student performance on the ACT.
  2. No consistent relationship between real per-pupil spending by districts and the proportion of students in a district who finish high school as college-ready,
  3. No consistent relationship between real per-pupil spending by districts and students’ performance on the WKCE exams, and
  4. No consistent relationship between real per-pupil spending by districts and graduation rates, both for all students as a group and for economically disadvantaged students.

CJ Szafir, Education Policy Director, and Martin Lueken, Education Research Director, for WILL, emphasized in an article for Forbes that government spending on education is not meaningless. However, “holding other inputs constant, additional dollars spent on public schools will not produce proportional benefits in student outcomes. In other words, a dollar spent in a developing country, like India, is likely to have a bigger impact than in Wisconsin.”

Read Diminishing Returns in K-12 Education by Martin F. Lueken, Ph.D., Education Research Director; Rick Esenberg, President; and CJ Szafir, Education Policy Director from WILL. (April 2015)

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