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The Facts on School Finance

June 19, 2017
  • What are We Getting for Our Money?

    Results, as measured by student achievement, have not risen as rapidly as spending.

    Performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has improved modestly for elementary-aged children (9-year-olds) but has not improved for high schoolers (17-year-olds).

    Today, the graduation rate is higher than it has been, but the relationship between graduation rate and K-12 spending remains unclear. 

    Researchers who have looked at individual communities have found that schools that receive more funding do not necessarily produce stronger results. That is, spending and outcomes may not be clearly correlated.

    “In more than half of the states included in our study, there was no clear relationship between spending and achievement after adjusting for other variables, such as cost of living and students in poverty,” wrote Ulrich Boser in a recent report by the Center for American Progress.

    However, research is not totally consistent on the return on investment in education. A recent study by Jesse Rothstein and Julien Lafortune of Berkeley and Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach of Northwestern, found that rapid increases in funding tied to events, such as court orders or legislative actions, “cause gradual increases in the relative achievement of students in low-income school districts, consistent with the goal of improving educational opportunity for these students.” In other words, increasing spending can, in some cases, help to boost the achievement of high-needs students.