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Yes, many interventions that boost test scores, such as being assigned to an effective teacher, have been shown to generate substantial gains in later earnings (see “Great Teaching,” Summer 2012).But several recent studies have also shown that effects on adult outcomes may go undetected by test scores.We then see if, within districts predicted to experience larger reform-induced spending increases, “exposed” cohorts (children young enough to have been in school when or after the reforms were passed) have better outcomes than “unexposed” cohorts (children who were too old at the time of passage to be affected by the reforms).
Because the local property tax base is typically higher in areas with higher home values, and there are persistently high levels of residential segregation by socioeconomic status, heavy reliance on local financing enabled affluent districts to spend more per student.
In states that passed SFRs, low-spending districts initially experienced greater increases in per-pupil spending than similar districts in nonreform states, while high-spending districts experienced decreases. Having established that court-mandated reforms, on average, affected school spending differently in different kinds of districts, we use more detailed information about the specific reforms enacted in each state to “predict” reform-induced spending changes for each district nationwide.
That is, we ignore what actually occurred in a given district and instead calculate what would have been expected to occur based on the experiences of all other districts with similar characteristics experiencing the same kind of reform.
We classify districts as low- or high-spending based on whether their average per-pupil spending levels were in the bottom or top 25 percent of districts in their state as of 1972, before any such reforms were implemented.
We see that court-mandated reforms were in fact successful at reducing spending gaps between previously low- and high-spending districts.