Monday, September 24, 2012

School Spending and Academic Results

Last week, I commented on a study that concluded that Texas school funding favors wealthy school districts. Today, I want to focus on what the disparity in spending buys the wealthy school districts. In short, academic achievement.

After the jump, plenty of dodging and weaving, then the facts.

Those who want to deny that there's a correlation between school spending and academic results have plenty of data to confuse the issue. Listen to the exchange between House Public Education Committee Chairman Rob Eissler (R-The Woodlands) and Vice Chairman Scott Hochberg (D-Houston). Tell me Eissler doesn't remind you of an octopus ejecting a thick, black cloud of ink to escape a simple proposition - that there is a correlation between school spending and academic results.

Joe Smith of condenses the trouble with Texas school funding down to a simple table correlating academic results with per pupil spending (and district property tax rates):

RatingSpendingTax Rates
Exemplary$6,580Lowest Rate
Unacceptable$5,538Highest Rate

The school districts that spend the most get the most. The school districts that spend the least aren't the stingiest. They've jacked their tax rates up the highest. There's just not enough wealth in their districts to generate the money that the wealthy districts can raise with lower tax rates.

All of this deals with the equity issue that's raised in the school districts' lawsuit against the state. The other issue, adequacy, argues that all of the numbers in that table above need to be raised. The correlation the table shows between spending and results certainly suggests that. Texas' per student public education spending ranked 45th for 2011-2012.

Until the Texas legislature does something to fix the numbers in this table, they are not serious about fixing Texas school finance. Don't let legislators like Stefani Carter and Angie Chen Button distract you with manufactured crises like voter fraud. Don't let Stefani Carter brag about campaigning for Mitt Romney in Charlotte or having Rush Limbaugh mention her name. Force these candidates for the Texas legislature to tell voters what their solution is for the Texas school finance mess. Force them to tell voters how their proposal will change the numbers in that table. Everything else is just octopus ink.

(H/T Rodger Jones)

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