DeVos: More funding does not necessarily boost school performance

Dive Brief:

  • Education Secretary Betsy DeVos reiterated her position that there is not a correlation between higher levels of funding to schools and districts and school and student performance during a Senate appropriations subcommittee hearing June 6, according to NPR.
  • The data is inconsistent, but some research suggests increases in funding can be a benefit to schools, provided the funding is spent intelligently and consistently. Still other research indicates a loose correlation between funding and performance.
  • Supporters maintain that it is important to ensure that funding reaches the students and schools that are most in need, and that it will be allocated year after year. The money also needs to be put to use in classrooms, by paying and supporting teachers, curricula and smaller class sizes.

Dive Insight:

Data on the question of whether increased funding helps beleaguered schools is conflicted, possibly because there are so many variables at play to consider. There is evidence to suggest that increased spending does not necessarily assist districts, including recent news from Baltimore that suggested test scores in the city’s district remained extremely low despite one of the highest per-pupil spending percentages in the country.

While NPR makes the point that the debate between how much one spends on education vs. how it is spent is a strange way to frame the debate (no one would argue that money spent doesn't help), it is still important to note that the U.S. spends more than any other developed nation on education, but lags many of those same nations on test score performance, according to a report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The U.S. spent 7.3% of its’ GDP on education, compared to the 6.3% average of other developed nations. There is additional data to suggest that even in other countries, high funding rates do not necessarily correlate to the most positive outcomes.

But some data has shown that funding can have an impact, including a 2016 report from the National Bureau of Economic Research. According to a New York Times analysis of the report, “states that send additional money to their lowest-income school districts see more academic improvement in those districts than states that don’t. The size of the effect was significant.”

One important point to note is that school districts with higher funding levels typically are located in more affluent areas, leading to higher revenues for those districts, and these areas may have services that low-income areas lack. Even if cities and states are putting money into low-performing schools and school districts, if the surrounding community is also struggling with poverty and a lack of services, the impact of the funding increase in the school may be mitigated without similar support put into the community surrounding the school.

Filed Under: Higher Ed Policy & Regulation