School finance reforms can help equalize educational resources for youth living in low-income families, thereby improving learning opportunities and academic outcomes. However, the effectiveness of such reforms varies across states and local school districts. Sun and colleagues will conduct a mixed-methods study of whether the McCleary school finance reforms, which began in Washington state in 2018-19, have improved resource equity across and within school districts and reduced disparities in learning opportunities for low-income students and students of color. The reforms increased state property taxes, capped the funds that districts can raise through local property taxes, and provided new funds to increase salaries in all districts. Prior research has found that school finance reform is related to improvement in student outcomes, but the field lacks information on how best to allocate resources and how local decisions are made about implementation. To address these knowledge gaps, this study will utilize statewide administrative data on principal, teacher, and student characteristics; district spending and local tax information; a statewide survey of district leaders and unions on implementation; and interviews and document reviews in four purposively selected districts. In addition to academic publications and presentations, the team plans to leverage their advisory group to develop policy briefs and video and in-person workshops for key stakeholder groups as well as outreach to traditional media.
How and why does school finance reform reduce inequality in educational resources for students of color and youth living in low-income families?