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States Are Spending Way Too Little on Schools, Report Concludes

When it comes to learning, money matters, and state leaders aren't providing schools with enough of it for their students to meet national average test scores, according to a new research paper issued by the Albert Shanker Institute and co-authored by Bruce Baker, a top school finance expert from Rutgers University.

"There is now widespread agreement, backed by research, that we cannot improve education outcomes without providing schools—particularly schools serving disadvantaged student populations—with the resources necessary for doing so," the authors concluded. "Put simply: we can't decide how best to spend money for schools unless schools have enough money to spend."

Using state and local spending patterns, a slew of recently published research, and test scores, the authors concluded that while states are spending enough money for middle class and wealthier students to meet states' academic standards, they're spending far too little on America's growing population of poor students.

"The vast majority of states spend well under the levels that would be necessary for their higher-poverty districts to achieve national average test scores," the authors concluded. 

The authors say that poor students actually cost more, not less, to educate because they require wraparound services, more-qualified teachers, and stable learning environments. States should consider replacing their existing funding formulas with ones that provide more money for schools serving a high concentration of these students, the authors said. 

States historically have attempted to even out funding disparities between districts by providing more money to those with low property value and, inevitably, poorer students.  But states are falling short in those efforts, the report found.  While states currently spend on average around $13,000 on high-poverty school districts, states, they should be spending more than $20,000 on those districts, the authors say.   Although Wyoming, New Hampshire, and Delaware spend more than enough money on their high-poverty districts, Arizona, Mississippi and California spend far too little on those districts, the report states.  

"Progressive distributions of funding must be coupled with sufficient overall levels of funding to achieve the desired outcomes," the authors said.

The authors also attempted to put to rest a long-standing debate over whether or not money matters when it comes to student learning.

"This consensus—that money does, indeed, matter— is supported by a growing body of high-quality empirical research regarding the importance of equitable and adequate financing for providing high-quality schooling to all children. In education, money can be, and frequently is, used poorly. How money is spent—and on which students— is no less important than how much money is spent."

The Albert Shanker Institute is a nonprofit organization that includes among its goals boosting both public education and unions.

Read the full report here.


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