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What will help increase state funding for education?

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State-level investment in primary and secondary education, measured as state income per student, has increased by about $1,000 in the decade since 1960. Outside of the Great Recession, state-level investment has accounted for the largest share of public education funding since 1980. Outweighs local and federal funding. These state-level investments are also important because they can be used to equalize resources across districts. For example, in states where property tax revenues represent the majority of local revenues, state-level funds can help fill low-wealth districts and reduce funding gaps.

We have worked to understand what drives state-level investment in education to make a big difference. The recent school finance literature provides little explanation of the various ways states intervene to increase primary and secondary education revenues. Much of the research published in the last decade has focused on the courts, which are important (as explained below) but are not the most immediate catalysts for reform: tax increases or budgeting. you can’t. Moreover, legislatures differ in how quickly, if at all, they react to court decisions. Also, in many cases, laws are passed without judgment because of fear of lawsuits or simply because state governments have asked for changes. All this nuance and heterogeneity is missing from the discussion of school finance reform. I aimed for such nuance and rich depiction.

Learning from the ‘change point’ in state education funding

While many states have steadily increased investment in education over time, others have suddenly and dramatically increased state contributions. Figure 1 shows an example of these abrupt ‘change points’ in state education investment. It shows state income per student for Michigan and New Hampshire from 1960 to 2008, with a (much smoother) national trend line for context. Green Michigan experienced a turning point in her 1995, when the state’s spending per student more than doubled hers. New Hampshire, shown in red, experienced a turning point in 2000, when state spending increased fivefold as much as her.

Figure 1. State education income per student over time: Michigan, New Hampshire, and national averages.

Source: Adapted from Working Paper Figure 1 ( Click on the image to view it full size in a new tab.

A new working paper explores these abrupt shifts (or points of change) to guide investment in education. The changes are of interest because they likely represent policies adopted by state legislatures to reform the education financing system, often in pursuit of equity. Additionally, documenting the various events leading up to the change point can influence future policy decisions and advocacy.

Identify changepoint events for all states from 1960 to 2008 using a changepoint estimator and newly digitized state-level financial data. Essentially, this estimator uses a statistical algorithm to identify specific years in which a state’s education income changed sharply. Excluded from 2008 onwards due to the impact of the Great Recession. Once these points of change were detected statistically, we conducted an archive search, focusing on the years 1990-2008, to identify the legislative statutes that triggered these events and other states that preceded the statutes and points of change. identify the policy drivers of The times when we conduct archive searches are often called “appropriate times”. This is because lawsuits brought against states are based on the state’s constitutional requirement to provide adequate or adequate education, not equivalent education.

Previous research on school finance reform has generally focused on the High Court rulings that overturned state funding schemes. In contrast, our study produces a more comprehensive list of legislative actions and reforms to state education financing systems. Court involvement shows that some states are relevant but others are not. We believe that the various events that affect changes in school finances are generally underrecognized and understudied.

To conduct our search, we first looked for legislation that preceded the change by no more than five years. Four states (Nevada, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Maine) were unable to identify a statute. We also identified legislative events following the turning point in New Mexico, where the state’s education income increased more slowly. The search was then supplemented to document additional events preceding both the changes and the legislation identified. Figure 2 summarizes the results of this search process, showing the sequence of key events that preceded each change point, such as legislative acts, court actions, constitutional amendments, or resource shocks.

Figure 2. Events leading to positive change points.

Chart showing events leading to positive change points in state education funding
In our paper, we use a statistical algorithm to identify positive change points (black, hollow squares). We then catalog and chronologically tabulate the following preceding events using the archive search process described in our paper. Legislative acts (pink squares). Court action (green squares); constitutional amendments (blue squares); resource shocks (yellow squares). In most cases, legislative action occurs just before a positive change point. Source: Working Paper Figure 5 ( Click on the image to view it full size in a new tab.

By generating this more comprehensive set of events, we begin to see some patterns shown in Figure 2. First, state-level education finance reform takes place through a series of different processes. In states like Kentucky, lawsuits were filed and laws passed a year before the identified change point. States like Ohio and Texas had multiple lawsuits and minor legislative changes before the change point. Other states, such as West Virginia, North Carolina, and Virginia, pass a single statute just before the change point. That is, the paths taken by states before reaching a change point are different.

While there are differences from state to state, there are also many commonalities. First, 35 states experienced a change point during the era of adequacy. That is, despite the diversity of processes, 70% of her in the state experienced school finance reform during this time. Additionally, these transition points increased state education income by about $900 per student on average. This is an increase of about 6% in average gross income per student and an increase of about 12% in average state income per student.

In many states, legal persuasion is driving the early stages of fiscal reform. For example, based on the results of an archive search limited to changepoint states, if 20 of the 35 changepoint states had at least one lawsuit, and the state experienced a lawsuit, the probability of school finances would be The statutes that occur have increased by 50 percentage points.

Political stalemate also appears to be an obstacle to state investment in education. For example, in all states, if a party has real control of the government (i.e., there is a veto-powered majority in the state legislature, or if a party has control of both houses and the governor). ), the probability of a change point occurring is five times higher. It’s a percentage point, and if Democrats specifically control the state, the odds of a change point occurring increase by 8 percentage points.

Implications for future school finance reform

There are “half full” and “half empty” interpretations of the results in this paper. A plausible interpretation of these data, pessimistically, is that many states with change points have not initiated these reforms without prompting from the courts. Because it does not pass judgment, it often concludes that stakeholders and activists ultimately become the catalyst for reform. So when state budgets shrink during a fiscal crisis, as they did during the Great Recession and the COVID-19 pandemic, these same stakeholders and activists should be vigilant. We should not assume that public primary and secondary education spending will return to pre-crisis levels. No pressure from outside stakeholders.

Optimistically, the results of this study indicate that the country’s investment in public education systems is much greater than has been documented so far. We identified more states with changepoints and used this more complete list to derive larger effect sizes from changepoints compared to the existing literature, which relied almost exclusively on court rulings. identify. Since state revenues are so important to equalize educational opportunities, or at least to provide a guaranteed level of spending to all It shows that they have not withdrawn from their commitment to education.

We also see something like a roadmap for those interested in creating change. Lawsuits brought by activists and stakeholders are the precedents that courts need to rule, and courts are often the catalyst for legislative action.

At the same time, courts are only a step towards change. Ultimately, it is the legislative branch that is responsible for raising taxes, allocating revenues, and establishing funding schemes. Current understanding of what prompts Congress to act outside the jurisdiction of the courts is limited. Economic conditions, relations with teachers’ unions, and political party dynamics are all likely important contextual factors in shaping legislation and deserve further study.