Money Matters

In a topical follow up to our article on Ohio's lack of a school funding formula, The Shanker Institute adds this weight of evidence to the funding debate. We'd like to draw specific attention to the areas we have bolded.

Our new report, written by Rutgers professor Bruce Baker and entitled “Revisiting the Age-Old Question: Does Money Matter in Education?” reviews this body of evidence.

Contrary to the canned rhetoric flying around public discourse on education finance, high-quality research like that discussed in Baker’s review does not lend itself to broad, sweeping conclusions. Some things work and others don’t, and so the strength and consistency of the money/results relationship varies by how it’s spent, the students on whom it spent, and other factors. Sometimes effects are small, and sometimes they’re larger.

Nevertheless, on the whole, Baker’s review shows that there is a consistently positive effect of higher spending on achievement. Moreover, interventions that cost money, such as higher teacher salaries, have a proven track record of getting results, while state-level policies to increase the adequacy and equitability of school finance have also been shown to improve the level and distribution of student performance.

Finally, and most relevant to the current budget context, the common argument that we can reduce education funding without any harm to (and, some argue, actual improvement of) achievement outcomes has no basis in empirical evidence.

Without question, there is plenty of room for improvement in how we finance our public education system, and much to learn about how spending affects short- and long-term outcomes. But the fact that some people are not only arguing that money makes no difference, but also that reducing funding will cause no harm (and might even help), can only be described as a fantasy, dressed up with misleading graphs, unproven “off the shelf” cost-cutting measures and gigantic misinterpretations of the impressive body of evidence on this topic.

More funding will not solve all our problems, but, as Baker puts it, “sufficient financial resources are a necessary underlying condition for providing quality education.”

In other words, money matters.