School Finance Reform and the Distribution of Student Achievement (WP-16-04)
Julien Lafortune, Jesse Rothstein, and Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach
The authors study the impact of post-1990 school finance reforms, during the so-called "adequacy" era, on gaps in spending and achievement between high-income and low-income school districts. Using an event study design, they find that reform events–court orders and legislative reforms–lead to sharp, immediate, and sustained increases in absolute and relative spending in low-income school districts. Using representative samples from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, they also find that reforms cause gradual increases in the relative achievement of students in low-income school districts, consistent with the goal of improving educational opportunity for these students. The implied effect of school resources on educational achievement is large.