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A recent study shows that low-income students do better academically when policymakers spend more money on their title I schools, the New York Times reports.

Researchers have typically found it difficult to isolate the effect of money on education because other factors involved, such as parental involvement and school organization, also influence outcomes.

The study, titled School Finance Reform and the Distribution of Student Achievement, used data from the National Assessment of Education Progress, administered by the Department of Education. The department allowed the researchers to compare test results across 26 states that changed how they fund schools.

The department also gave the researchers access to personal data, such as race, income and school district.

They found that states that spent additional money—above what’s required for equal distribution of education funds—on their lowest-income school districts spurred higher academic improvement. The study didn’t focus on how money is spent; it examined the per-pupil spending rate.

Per-pupil spending is a broad average of how much money school district spends on each student. It makes it easier to compare spending across the many school districts across the nation.

If a district spends $500,000 on a middle-income suburban school and the same amount on an overcrowded urban school, it has achieved funding equity. But it spends less per-pupil for the city school.

This touches on the troublesome debate about whether funding should be equal across the board, or if low-income school districts should receive more funding than middle-and upper-class school districts. Lawmakers in several states are debating this issue.

Jesse Rothstein of the University of California at Berkeley co-authored the study with fellow economists Julien Lafortune of U.C. Berkeley and Northwestern’s Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach.

Rothstein cautioned that increased education spending is not a silver bullet that can close the achievement gap. Rather, it “contributes in a meaningful way to closing the gap.”

SOURCE: New York Times

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