Progressives Agree: More Dollars Do Not Equal More Scholars

The Center for American Progress conducted a study on school district spending, performance, and efficiency and comes to the unremarkable conclusion that more resources are not directly correlated with higher test scores (emphasis added):

In more than half of the states included in our study, there was no clear relationship between spending and achievement after adjusting for other variables, such as cost of living and students in poverty. These findings are consistent with existing research: How a school system spends its dollars can be just as important as how much it spends, at least above some threshold level.


The study also found:

  • Low productivity costs the nation’s school system an estimated $175 billion a year. The approximate loss in capacity equals about 1 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product.
  • High-spending school systems are often inefficient. For example, only 17 percent of Florida’s districts in the top third in spending were also in the top third in achievement.
  • The nation’s least-productive districts spend more on administration. The most inefficient districts devote an extra 3 percent of their budgets to non-instructional expenditures.
  • Highly productive districts are focused on improving student outcomes. These districts shared an emphasis on community support and a willingness to make tough choices.

The educational bureaucracy is the real culprit, not a lack of funding. Our public school system needs incentive-based reforms—competition and choice—which address the systemic failure of the education monopoly to perform efficiently and put the needs of children before the wallets of adults.