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School Finance Reform and the Distribution of Student Achievement

  • Author(s): Lafortune, Julien
  • Rothstein, Jesse
  • Whitmore Schanzenbach, Diane
  • et al.
Abstract

We study the impact of post-1990 school finance reforms, during the so-called “adequacy” era, on absolute and relative spending and achievement in low-income school districts. Using an event study research design that exploits the apparent randomness of reform timing, we show that reforms lead to sharp, immediate, and sustained increases in spending in low-income school districts. Using representative samples from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, we find that reforms cause increases in the achievement of students in these districts, phasing in gradually over the years following the reform. The implied effect of school resources on educational achievement is large.

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