To Spend More or Not to Spend More to Improve U.S. Education

Challenging the assumption that just increasing U.S. K-12 school funding won’t improve student outcomes, Jordan Weissman, Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent, examines two new studies that look at the impact of school finance reform. Both papers study districts that were court-ordered to increase spending and found positive effects.

The authors of the working paper “School Finance Reform and the Distribution of Student Achievement,” found that “money can and does matter” when it comes to providing education equity for low-income students. However, since current finance reform is focused on the lowest income districts, there are still many students left behind.

“The average low-income student does not live in a particularly low-income district, so is not well targeted by a transfer of resources to the latter,” write the researchers. “Thus, we find that finance reforms reduced achievement gaps between high- and low-income school districts but did not have detectable effects on resource or achievement gaps between high- and low-income (or white and black) students. Attacking these gaps via school finance policies would require changing the allocation of resources within school districts, something that was not attempted by the reforms that we study. “

Read “How Do You Fix Schools? Maybe Just Give Them More Money.” by Jordan Weissman, Slate (February 23, 2016)

Read “School Finance Reform and the Distribution of Student Achievement,” Julien Lafortune, Jesse Rothstein, and Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach. National Bureau of Economic Research. (February 2016)

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Education Policy