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Inequality Advantage Backlines (Stem)

They Say: “Right To Education Fails”

Courts will enforce — there’s an overwhelming consensus that money matters.

Ogletree and Robinson 17 — Charles J. Ogletree, Jr., Jesse Climenko Professor of Law and Director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School, holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School and an M.A. in Political Science from Stanford University, and Kimberly Jenkins Robinson, Professor of Law and Austin Owen Research Scholar at the University of Richmond School of Law, Researcher at the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School, former Associate Professor at the Emory School of Law, former General Attorney in the Office of the General Counsel at the United States Department of Education, holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School, 2017 (“Inequitable Schools Demand a Federal Remedy,” Education Next, Volume 17, Number 2, Spring, Available Online at, Accessed 06-09-2017)

Enforcing the Right

Once the court recognizes a federal constitutional right to education, families, advocates, and attorneys must begin the hard work of challenging state systems of education as unlawful under the U.S. Constitution. Federal courts should insist that states design their education systems to accomplish the aims of the right to education—be they ending inequitable disparities in educational opportunity, preparing students to be competent voters and civic participants, or ensuring that students are equal citizens. State-level funding litigation has often revealed that education systems are based upon the bargains struck by politicians that are divorced from a rigorous analysis of the aims of education and the best means to achieve them. In designing remedies, the federal courts could draw critical lessons from successful state cases such as Abbott v. Burke (New Jersey) and Campaign for Fiscal Equity v. State of New York. Both cases provide examples of state courts that have insisted that states design funding systems to accomplish specified aims.

Cases alleging a federal constitutional right to education need not center on the illegality of funding disparities. Such cases can cause courts to lose their focus on the underlying disparities in educational opportunity that prevent children from becoming engaged citizens and productive members of society. When cases do implicate funding disparities, the federal courts can build upon the consensus that has emerged from the overwhelming majority of state courts that have concluded, after a review of the relevant social science research, that money does matter for the quality of educational opportunity. Recent research by C. Kirabo Jackson and colleagues confirms that spending increases can improve both educational and adult outcomes for low-income children (see “Boosting Educational Attainment and Adult Earnings,” research, Fall 2015). Therefore, although the Rodriguez court noted that it was unable to address complex policy questions such as this, the Supreme Court would not be stymied by this question in future cases.

They Say: “Funding Not Key – General”

Prefer our evidence — best empirical analysis.

Baker 17 — Bruce D. Baker, Professor in the Department of Educational Theory, Policy, and Administration in the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, former Associate Professor of Teaching and Leadership at the University of Kansas, holds an Ed.D. in Organization and Leadership from the Teachers College of Columbia University, 2017 (“Does Money Matter in Education? Second Edition,” Albert Shanker Institute, Available Online at, Accessed 06-14-2017, p. 2)

The growing political consensus that money doesn’t matter stands in sharp contrast to the substantial body of empirical research that has accumulated over time, but which gets virtually no attention in our public discourse.12 This policy brief reviews that literature. Specifically, I review three major bodies of evidence, each of which pertains to a specific element of the broad topic of whether money matters in determining the quality of education. These three literatures are organized by the following guiding questions: [end page 2]

1. Does money matter? Are differences in aggregate school funding associated with differences in short- and long-term measured outcomes?

2. Do school resources that cost money matter? Are differences in access to specific schooling programs or resources—where “resources” mean the various things that money buys, such as smaller classes, higher salaries and instructional materials—associated with differences in short- and long-term measured outcomes?

3. Do school finance reforms matter? Do substantive and sustained reforms to state school finance systems, including raising the level of funding or redistributing money more equitably, lead to improvements in the level or distribution of student outcomes?

I discuss only domestic studies, primarily those that focus on short-term and intermediate-term outcomes, such as achievement (e.g., test scores) and attainment (e.g., graduation). Furthermore, preference is given to studies that appear in peer-reviewed academic journals and books (see endnote 13 for the full selection criteria).13 I also discuss the sources of information that have been frequently used to cast doubt on whether money is related to educational outcomes. Finally, I summarize what we know from the preponderance of evidence, as derived from rigorous empirical analysis, as well as what we do not yet know. And in an appendix to this brief, I discuss, in general terms, methodological issues around the study of whether money matters in education.

There is an emerging consensus that school funding matters.

Bowman 17 — Kristi L. Bowman, Vice Dean for Academic Affairs, Professor of Law, and Faculty Affiliate of the Education Policy Center at Michigan State University, recipient of the Steven S. Goldberg Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Education Law from the Education Law Association, holds a J.D. and an M.A. in Humanities from Duke University, 2017 (“The Failure of Education Federalism,” Forthcoming in the University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform, Last Revised on April 27th, Available Online via SSRN at, Accessed 07-08-2017, p. 3-4)

The debates that emerge from this situation are not new: Questions about federalism, courts’ ability to produce social change, and the degree to which “money matters” in schools all have been at the heart of American education law and policy for quite some time. In one form or another, these themes are woven throughout more than a half-century of vigorous discussions about education funding reform by judges, legislators, and researchers.2 In fact, from the 1966 fountainhead of modern education research, the Coleman Report,3 through today, ample research has sought to unpack the impact of funding and a new consensus may be emerging, documenting that court orders and legislative reforms that result in increased school spending create short- and long-term gains for students in the affected schools. This finding is especially significant because it is unusual [end page 3] to identify a variable in a problem as complex as educational quality and poverty that one can influence as easily as funding.

Footnote 2: C. Kirabo Jackson, Rucker Johnson & Claudia Persico, The Effects of School Spending on Educational and Economic Outcomes: Evidence from School Finance Reforms, 131 Q.J. ECON. 157, 157-58 (2016). Kristi L. Bowman, Pursuing Educational Opportunities for Latino/a Students, 88 N.C. L. REV. 911, 962-63, 962 n.267; See also Christopher A. Suarez, Courthouse, Statehouse, or Both? Redefining Institutional Roles in School Finance Reform, 28 YALE L. & POL’Y REV. 539 (2010) (discussing ERIC A. HANUSHEK & ALFRED A. LINDSETH, SCHOOLHOUSES, COURTHOUSES, AND STATEHOUSES: SOLVING THE FUNDING-ACHIEVEMENT PUZZLE IN AMERICA’S PUBLIC SCHOOLS (2009), and MICHAEL A. REBELL, COURTS & KIDS: PURSUING EDUCATIONAL EQUITY THROUGH THE STATE COURTS (2009).

Footnote 3: JAMES S. COLEMAN ET AL., OFFICE OF EDUC., U.S. DEP’T OF HEALTH, EDUC., AND WELFARE OE- 38001, EQUALITY OF EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITY (1966),; Eric A. Hanushek, What Matters for Student Achievement: Updating Coleman on the Influence of Families and Schools, EDUCATIONNEXT, Spring 2016, at 19,

Increased funding substantially improves student outcomes — best methodology.

JJP 16 — C. Kirabo Jackson, Associate Professor of Human Development and Social Policy at Northwestern University, Faculty Fellow at the Institute for Policy Research, Faculty Research Fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research, holds a Ph.D. in Economics from Harvard University, et al., with Rucker C. Johnson, Associate Professor at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California-Berkeley, Faculty Research Fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research, Faculty Research Fellow at the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute at Harvard University, Research Affiliate at the National Poverty Center at the University of Michigan, Research Affiliate at the Institute for Poverty Research at the University of Wisconsin, holds a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Michigan, and Claudia Persico, Assistant Professor of the Economics of Education in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis and Faculty Affiliate of the La Follette School of Public Affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Research Affiliate at Northwestern University, holds a Ph.D. in Human Development and Social Policy from the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University, 2016 (“The Effects of School Spending on Educational and Economic Outcomes: Evidence From School Finance Reforms,” The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Volume 131, Issue 1, February, Available Online at, Accessed 07-06-2017, p. 212-213)

VII. Discussion and Conclusions

Previous national studies correlated observed school resources with student outcomes and found little association for those born after 1950 (e.g., Coleman et al. 1966; Hanushek 1986; Betts 1995; Grogger 1996). This study builds and improves on previous work by using nationally representative, individual-level panel data from birth to adulthood (matched with school spending and reform data) and quasi-experimental methods to estimate credible causal relationships. We investigate the causal effect of exogenous school spending increases (induced by the passage of SFRs) on educational attainment and (eventual) labor market success. For children from low-income families, increasing per pupil spending yields large improvements in educational attainment, wages, family income, and reductions in the annual incidence of adult poverty. All of these effects are statistically significant and are robust to a rich set of controls for confounding policies and trends. For children from nonpoor families, we find smaller effects of increased school spending on subsequent educational attainment and family income in adulthood. The results make important contributions to the human capital literature and highlight how improved access to school resources can profoundly shape the life outcomes of economically disadvantaged children, and thereby significantly reduce the intergenerational transmission of poverty.

To explore the potential mechanisms from which these spending effects arise, we documented that reform-induced school spending increases were associated with sizable improvements in measured school inputs, including reductions in student-teacher ratios, increases in teacher salaries, and longer school years.31 These finding parallel those of Card and Krueger’s influential 1992 study of males born between 1920 and 1949 and recent studies that link adult outcomes to quasi-experimental variation in school inputs (Fredriksson et al. 2012). The similarities suggest that money still matters, and so do school resources.

A suggestive benefit-cost analysis reveals that investments in school spending are worthwhile. Increasing spending by 10% for all school-age years increased wages by 7.7% each year (Table IV). Someone born in 1975 would start school around [end page 212] 1980 when average per pupil spending was $5,459 in 2013 dollars. A 10% increase for 12 years starting in 1980 is equal to $4,850 in present value (assuming a 6% discount rate). The median worker in 2013 earned $28,031, so a 7.2% increase in earnings for such a worker between ages 25 and 60 is worth just over $10,000 in present value. This implies a benefit-cost ratio of about 3 and an internal rate of return of roughly 10%. This internal rate of return is similar to those estimated for preschool programs (Deming 2009), smaller than estimates of the internal rates of return for class size reductions (Fredriksson et al. 2012), and larger than long-term returns to stocks. In sum, the estimated benefits to increased school spending are large enough to justify the increased spending under most reasonable benefit-cost calculations.

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