Education Reform Funding

New Research: Spending DOES Make a Difference, Especially for the Poorest Children

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It should not be a surprise to learn that money matters. Certainly, affluent parents choose private schools and suburban districts with small classes, experienced teachers, and beautiful facilities.

Meanwhile, the children who live in the poorest communities have overcrowded classes in aging buildings and a steady churn of inexperienced teachers.

For years, we have been told by politicians and some economists that “throwing money” at schools in poor neighborhoods would not help the children.

However, new research demonstrates that spending does matter.

The authors–C. Kirabo Jackson, associate professor of human development and social policy at Northwestern University, Rucker C. Johnson, associate professor of public policy at University of California, Berkeley, and Claudia Persico, a doctoral candidate in human development and social policy at Northwestern University–show that “increased school spending is linked to improved outcomes for students, and for low-income students in particular…Increasing per-pupil spending yields large improvements in educational attainment, wages, and family income, and reductions in the annual incidence of adult poverty for children from low-income families.

As they also show, it matters how the new money is spent–such as on instruction, hiring more teachers, increasing teacher pay, hiring guidance counselors and social workers. Money well-spent “can profoundly shape the life outcomes of economically disadvantaged children and thereby reduce the intergenerational transmission of poverty. Money alone may not lift educational outcomes to desired levels, but our findings confirm that the provision of adequate funding may be critical.”

The only surprising fact about this study is that it appears in Education Next, a conservative journal whose contributors usually argue that money doesn’t matter, as compared to vouchers and charters.

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