Does school funding even matter? As CPS heads towards a budget crisis and Illinois contemplates school funding reform, it’s worth taking a second to look at what the research actually says about the connection between school budgets and student achievement.
A new study finds that school funding matters a lot, especially for low-income children. The authors use a natural experiment to look at the effects of court-mandated school funding reforms, comparing the lifetime outcomes of young children who benefited from the increased funding with older children who did not.
The result? While effects were relatively small for affluent children, the researchers found that for low-income kids a 10% increase in per pupil funding led to an additional half year of education, 10% higher lifetime earnings, and a 6% reduction in adult poverty. Based on their findings, the authors project that a 25% increase in school funding could completely eliminate the achievement gap between poor and non-poor students.
This study confirms something that already makes intuitive sense: funding matters. With larger budgets, school districts can lengthen the school year, attract high-quality teachers, and reduce student-teacher ratios. For poor children, increased funding can set a child on a path to college, a meaningful career, and a path out of poverty.
And yet, Illinois is the most regressive state in the country when it comes to school funding, meaning we actually spend less on poor kids than their more affluent peers. Real evidence shows that leveling the funding playing field could make a huge difference for low-income students in Illinois. There are efforts underway in Springfield through the Better Funding for Better Schools campaign that would make tremendous strides in closing our funding equity gap, and this report is one more piece of evidence that shows how critically important it is that we fix the broken school funding system. Let’s make 2016 the year when we pass funding reform and get kids the resources that research proves matter a huge amount.