Washington Examiner | Flanders: Spending more money on schools doesn’t help students learn

WILL Research Director, Dr. Will Flanders, writes in the Washington Examiner on how research shows that spending more money on schools doesn’t help students necessarily learn.

As fall fast approaches and political campaigns across the country kick it into overdrive, partisans from both sides of the aisle seem to be in a race to promise the biggest public-school spending increase they can. Politicians focus on public-school spending largely because the message is popular with voters. Indeed, in my own state, Wisconsin, a recent poll showed that the public would choose more spending on public schools over decreased property taxes.

But despite public support, it’s important to determine whether, and what type of, additional spending on schools will actually improve performance.

To help answer that question, we collected five years of comprehensive data on spending in all 422 school districts in Wisconsin. Because funding varies between school districts and over time, this creates something of a natural experiment to compare spending with student outcomes. We examined the relationship between student outcomes and overall per-student spending, spending on teacher salaries, and spending on administrative personnel.

The results were staggering, even after accounting for other demographic and socioeconomic factors that can impact student performance.

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