Friday, January 8, 2010

Looking at Spending Disparities and Outcomes

The Rockefeller Institute issued a paper recently called "Spending Is Up, and So Are Interstate Disparities in States’ K-12 Education Revenues". The authors look at how the stimulus funding and the economic downturn could exacerbate disparities in education across and within states. The paper's emphasis is that states that have historically spent less on education also have higher child poverty rates and thus higher levels of educational need. Due to the economy and in spite of the stimulus funding, these lower-spending states are continuing to devote relatively fewer resources to education. The authors recommend that:

There are ways, however, to make the relationship between funding and need more transparent to policymakers. Some states and large districts have developed systems that reflect the differential costs of educating students with different needs.[That] help them better understand the relationship between their funding decisions and educational need. Then they could make an informed choice as to whether to distribute funding using a traditional population-based formula ... or using a formula that is weighted to reflect student need.
While this information is important to policymakers, what may be even more significant is the relationship between spending and child outcomes. For too long policymakers have been asked to look only at need and not outcomes. But an article in the journal Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy makes the case for policymakers and quantifies the correlation between policy (in this case spending) and child well being. The authors of "Are Public Expenditures Associated with Better Child Outcomes in the U.S.? A Comparison across 50 States" found that
states that spend the most on children through social programs and tax credits are also the states that have the healthiest children and the children with the best educational and behavioral outcomes, and whether states that spend the least have the worst child outcomes. ... Education expenditures have particularly strong and positive effects on child outcomes, especially test scores and adolescent behavior.
The Center for the Study of Social Policy provides a framework for looking at policy development based on results, not just need.

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