A new report from the Center for American Progress that assesses more than 9,000 school districts in 46 states on their return on educational investment, concludes that school district spending and student achievement show no clear correlation in over half the country. The year-long project compared school district academic achievement to its educational spending, while controlling for factors outside a district’s control, such as cost of living and the rate of poverty. The findings reiterate what many school choice advocates have been saying for decades: More money does not equal better results.
In fact, the study found:
Efficiency varies widely within states. Some districts spent thousands more
per student to obtain the same broad level of academic achievement. After
adjusting for factors outside of a district’s control, the range of spending
among the districts scoring in the top third of achievement in California was
nearly $8,000 per student.
More than a million students are enrolled in highly inefficient districts. Over
400 school districts around the country were rated highly inefficient on all three
of our productivity metrics. These districts serve about 3 percent of the almost
43 million students covered by our study.
High-spending school systems are often inefficient. Our analysis showed
that after accounting for factors outside of a district’s control, many highspending districts posted middling productivity results. For example, only 17 percent of Florida’s districts in the top third in spending were also in the top third in achievement
What applies to the states is also true for the country. The report explains that after adjusting for inflation, education spending per student in the United States has nearly tripled over the past four decades, while academic achievement has stagnated and graduation rates remain largely flat. Internationally, The U.S. scores equally poorly, ranking in the middle among the 34 OECD countries, despite spending the most on average per student on education than any of the 65 participating countries covered by the programme for international student assessment (PISA), excluding Luxembourg.
This report comes as at welcome time, as parents, educators and policymakers are gearing up for National School Choice Week to take place January 23–29. Events shining a spotlight on the benefits of school choice will occur all throughout the country, further raising awareness for the need and feasibility of meaningful education reform.