When Can Money Close Achievement Gaps? School Funding and Class Inequality of Educational Achievement

What is the relationship between school funding and inequality in academic achievement by socioeconomic status, and does this relationship vary by funding source?

In this study, Rauscher seeks to identify the circumstances under which school funding reduces achievement gaps. Increases in funding can improve school facilities and allow schools to provide better resources for students at all levels, including lower-tracked classes. The source of funding may also matter, especially given the unequal distribution of funding from state, local, and federal sources. Rauscher will examine federal, state, and local funding, with attention to states’ general funding formulas and facilities funding raised through local ballot measures. Using data from all California school districts between 1995 and 2013, Rauscher will analyze revenue and expenditure data, district-level measures of per-pupil funding by source, linked administrative data on school district characteristics, and school district ballot measures from the California Elections Data Archive. Rauscher will measure academic inequality in district administrative data as the difference in Academic Performance Index (API) scores between socioeconomically disadvantaged students (i.e., eligible for free and reduced price school lunch) and non-socioeconomically disadvantaged students. She will then examine the relationship between education funding and achievement gaps, facilities funding and achievement gaps, and identify potential variation by source of funding. Rauscher will investigate which sources of funding have the potential to reduce inequality and how, in a tight budget context, education funding might be best distributed to minimize the achievement gaps.

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