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William J. Mathis, (802) 383-0058,
Dan Quinn, (517) 203-2940,

New Brief Discusses Why Money Matters, Effective School Expenditures

EAST LANSING, Mich. (Feb. 7, 2013) – The sixth in a series of two- and three-page briefs summarizing relevant findings in education policy research discusses effective school expenditures. Recent public polls have made it clear Americans are concerned with school funding. However, with shrinking budgets at the state and national level, it is imperative for schools and policymakers to study where money matters, so that our investments have the best pay-off.

William Mathis, managing director of the National Education Policy Center, prepared the brief, Research-Based Options for Education Policymaking – Effective School Expenditures. Previous sections of Research-Based Options have included: teacher evaluations, common core standards, early childhood education, choice funding, and dropout strategies.

Mathis’ brief highlights the need for funding and notes that funding and other resources are necessary but not sufficient for providing high-quality educational opportunities. Equally important are effective spending strategies, simply spending money does not by itself create quality educational opportunities.

The most commonly used measure of effective expenditures, test scores, are not a valid indicator of the broad range of public education goals, Mathis cautions. "Simple comparisons of spending with test scores will systematically underestimate the effects of proper school funding."

Mathis singles out eight areas where increased policy emphasis will likely lead to improved outcomes: community and social factors, early education, community schools, extended day and year, full-day kindergarten, class size, teacher quality,  as well as funding for high-needs children and categorical aid.

These additional programs or supports will accomplish little unless they are of high quality. "An expensive but ill-considered policy can prove wasteful or even counter-productive."

Of all of the factors studied, Mathis stresses the influence of economic and social conditions, "Ameliorating the negative effects of concentrated poverty may do more to improve our schools than most or all school reforms."

He reports that this list is not all encompassing, "Nevertheless, there is considerable consensus regarding these areas, and they are therefore offered as a useful starting point for addressing effective school spending."

Effective School Expenditures is part of Research-Based Options for Education Policymaking, a multipart brief that takes up a number of important policy issues and identifies policies supported by research. Each section focuses on a different issue, and its recommendations to policymakers are based on the latest scholarship.

This brief was produced by the National Education Policy Center with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

Find the brief on the Great Lakes Center website:

This brief is also found on the NEPC website:


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