John Warner: Money Matters
John Warner interviewed Bruce Baker, an expert in school financing, about the importance of full funding for education. The resulting interview appears in the substack Educational Endeavors.
Educational Endeavors: It seems intuitive that money matters when it comes to the quality of education. The most prestigious schools tend to have the most resources and the best outcomes, but there is a robust school of thought that money does not matter in education.
Your research says otherwise, that more money is correlated with “improved or higher student outcomes.” What do we know about how money impacts outcomes in education?
Bruce Baker: My work in this particular area has been about summarizing what we know from several bodies of related high quality research, over several decades.
Recent studies have garnered significant attention, like Kirabo Jackson, Rucker Johnson and Claudia Persico’s study, showing that infusions of funding resulting from court orders and school finance reforms lead to increased short-term (test score) and long-term (college attendance, completion, income) outcomes. There’s been a pretty significant confirmatory body of evidence to accumulate even since this study, including studies showing the harms caused by the great recession.
But, my reviews of literature show that there was already a relatively strong body of evidence showing that money mattered. These included state-specific studies showing that school finance reforms had positive effects on a variety of outcomes, from Kansas to Michigan to Massachusetts. Also studies showing that specific resources that cost money, like reduced class size, have positive effects on outcomes. And another body of studies which show that it costs more to achieve higher than lower outcomes (usually focused on test scores and graduation rates). So, while there’s definitely been increased acceptance that “money matters” for student outcomes in response to the spate of recent studies, there was pretty good evidence across a variety of study types even before this.