Why does the defunding of public education by Governor Kasich matter? Because it harms student outcomes more than any other controllable event according to new research
There exists an increasing body of evidence that substantive and sustained state school finance reforms matter for improving both the level and distribution of short term and long run student outcomes. A few studies have attempted to tackle school finance reforms broadly applying multi-state analyses over time. Card and Payne (2002) found “evidence that equalization of spending levels leads to a narrowing of test score outcomes across family background groups.” (p. 49) Jackson, Johnson and Persico (2014) use data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) to evaluate long term outcomes of children exposed to court-ordered school finance reforms, based on matching PSID records to childhood school districts for individuals born between 1955 and 1985 and followed up through 2011. They find that the “Effects of a 20% increase in school spending are large enough to reduce disparities in outcomes between children born to poor and non‐poor families by at least two‐thirds,” and further that “A 1% increase in per‐pupil spending increases adult wages by 1% for children from poor families.”
On balance, it is safe to say that a significant and growing body of rigorous empirical literature validates that state school finance reforms can have substantive, positive effects on student outcomes, including reductions in outcome disparities or increases in overall outcome levels. Further, it stands to reason that if positive changes to school funding have positive effects on short and long run outcomes both in terms of level and distribution, then negative changes to school funding likely have negative effects on student outcomes. Thus it is critically important to understand the impact of the recent recession on state school finance systems, the effects on long term student outcomes being several years down the line.