More Dollars is Not Producing More Scholars

A new report from the Math Science Partnership of Greater Philadelphia on Pennsylvania school performance (specifically the 11th grade PSSAs) across school districts finds that:

  • Demographic factors (residents with bachelor’s degrees, percentage of minority students, percentage of low-income students) are correlated with academic performance.
  • Instructional expenditures per-pupil was not significantly correlated with academic performance.
  • Total spending per-pupil was negatively related to academic performance.

These latter two findings might shock the Rendell Administration – or at least undermine their rhetoric – as they continue to make claims that higher taxes will improve student learning.  But we’ve noted this trend on many occassions.

In questioning the “costing out study”, we remarked on the failure both of high spending districts and of dramatic school spending increases to improve performance. A recent ALEC report finds a similar lack of effect on spending and performance at the state level. And in Edifice Complex, we examined the lack of link between performance and spending, and noting that the way school districts spend money – increasingly on buildings – was certainly one reason for the failure of more dollars to produce more scholars. 

But that is not to say performance is solely defined by demographics.  Indeed, as Matt Brouillette and Andy Lefevre point out, where Pennsylvania has shown improvement, it is largely due to increases in choices for parents and students.  Other recent studies show that vouchers in Milwaukee and Washington DC have improved student learning, and a number of studies show that public schools improve with choice.

And perhaps most importantly, in constrast to Governor Rendell’s spend more, get less agenda, schools of choice costs less than traditional public schools.