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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Spending More on Education Makes a Difference. No Kidding.

The National Bureau of Economic Research concluded in a new paper that schools that spend more money have better outcomes for economically disadvantaged kids.

Here's the meat of the findings from NBER, which looked at education funding changes from 1955-2011:

Event-study and instrumental variable models reveal that a 20 percent increase in per-pupil spending each year for all 12 years of public school for children from poor families leads to about 0.9 more completed years of education, 25 percent higher earnings, and a 20 percentage-point reduction in the annual incidence of adult poverty.
The study concludes that between 2/3 and 100% of all the outcome gaps between kids raised in poor and non-poor homes can be eliminated with this spending increase.

Now, I know that here in Ohio, some pretty prominent education policymakers have argued that schools get enough money, or don't need more, or even would do better with less. But that's not what 56 years of data would suggest. It would suggest that removing $515 million from the classroom will have a deleterious effect upon the state's most at-risk youth.

It also calls into question conservative education policy guru Eric Hanushek's long-held conclusion that "Today the existing knowledge base does not ensure that any added funds will, on average, be spent wisely. That is true even if some schools may spend their funds wisely." 

Perhaps America's schools have been spending money more wisely than Hanushek gives them credit for. (By the way, in Ohio, Charter Schools spend far more on administration than school districts, so who's spending wisely in this state?) With only a 20% greater investment in addressing poverty, we've had 25% higher earnings and 20% reduction in poverty. Imagine if that percentage were 30-40%?

But when you can argue that up is down and down is up, I suppose these kinds of facts and realities don't matter anymore.

Finally, I'll leave you with this: When can we stop studying whether the sky is blue? Does anyone really think that money doesn't matter in education funding? Does anyone seriously believe that the answer is less money?

Until we have politicians who are willing to spend what needs to be spent for our kids to succeed, I suppose we're going to continue burning intellectual capital on reinforcing that most common of common sense truisms: You Get What You Pay For.