Does increased spending guarantee better academic performance?

school funding

Is improved funding directly proportional to improved education? This question, very surprisingly, has remained unanswered for a long time – blame it on the inconclusive researches conducted from time to time – or for that matter the never-ending debates between politicians, educators and unions. Until the recent past, there was no clear consensus regarding the place of money in education. Factors like parental education, student poverty and school organization have been touted as major contributors to academic results.

Will increased funding really facilitate academic growth?

Opponents of increased school funding opine that academic excellence doesn’t have anything to do with money. However, a recent study conducted by economists Jesse Rothstein (University of California, Berkeley), Julien Lafortune and Whitmore Schanzenbach of Northwestern has actually revealed that increased spending does have a bearing on education. Let us discover details in the course of this post.

The first-of-its-kind study which was published by the National Bureau of Economic Research tested student test scores of 26 states that have altered their funding method (schools) since 1990. They also tested 23 states that did not introduce any change in the way they fund their schools since 1990. The results were compared accordingly. The period starting from 1990 is important because that was the time when the court started changing the laws regarding state obligation to public school students.

School finance researchers faced a difficult challenge on their way to zeroing in on conclusive results. It was clear that money wasn’t really the end in itself but definitely a means to producing better results. Until a time, states went on having their own standards and related tests. As such, it was difficult to compare results of tests conducted by different states.

Does increased funding help? What the different studies revealed

It was only with the introduction and eventual adoption of the Common Core State Standards that it became possible to draw comparisons. The aforementioned researchers did find that in the long run within the comparable time frames the states that did invest money for the lowest-income school districts saw more academic improvement than the states that didn’t do the same. There was another study which tested the longer-term outcomes of improved school funding. They examined how students stayed at school and how they earned as adults. The researchers definitely observed more gains with more money spent.

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