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School Finance Reforms, Tax Limits, and Student Performance: Do Reforms Level-Up or Dumb Down?

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  • Thomas Downes

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  • David Figlio

Abstract

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, a majority of states substantially changed the ways in which schools were funded, either directly through court- or legislatively mandated school finance reform, or indirectly through tax and expenditure limits. To date, there have been few academic attempts to gauge the effects of these policy changes on actual outcomes of education. This paper is an attempt to fill this gap in the literature. We find compelling evidence that the imposition of tax or expenditure limits on local governments in a state results in a significant reduction in the mean for that state of student performance on standardized tests of mathematics skills. We also find that finance reforms in response to court mandates do not result in significant changes in either the mean level or the distribution of student performance on standardized tests of reading and mathematics. In addition, substantial finance reforms that are not legislative responses to explicit court mandates generally result in increases in mean student performance. Further, in those states that have implemented finance reforms of this type, the test performance of students residing in localities in which local revenues formed smaller shares of total revenue prior to the reforms improve relative to others after the reforms are implemented.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Department of Economics, Tufts University in its series Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University with number 9805.

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Date of creation: 1998
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Handle: RePEc:tuf:tuftec:9805

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References

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  1. Ehrenberg, Ronald G. & Brewer, Dominic J., 1994. "Do school and teacher characteristics matter? Evidence from High School and Beyond," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 13(1), pages 1-17, March.
  2. Thomas A. Husted & Lawrence W. Kenny, 2002. "The Legacy of Serrano: The Impact of Mandated Equal Spending on Private School Enrollment," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 68(3), pages 566-583, January.
  3. Downes, Thomas A. & Dye, Richard F. & McGuire, Therese J., 1998. "Do Limits Matter? Evidence on the Effects of Tax Limitations on Student Performance," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(3), pages 401-417, May.
  4. David Card & Abigail A. Payne, 1997. "School Finance Reform, the Distribution of School Spending, and the Distribution of SAT Scores," Working Papers 766, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  5. Alan B. Krueger, 1999. "Experimental Estimates Of Education Production Functions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 114(2), pages 497-532, May.
  6. Paul N. Courant & Susanna Loeb, 1997. "Centralization of school finance in Michigan," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 16(1), pages 114-136.
  7. Dye, Richard F. & McGuire, Therese J., 1997. "The effect of property tax limitation measures on local government fiscal behavior," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 66(3), pages 469-487, December.
  8. Silva, Fabio & Sonstelie, Jon, 1995. "Did Serrano Cause a Decline in School Spending," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 48(2), pages 199-215, June.
  9. Hanushek, Eric A, 1986. "The Economics of Schooling: Production and Efficiency in Public Schools," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 24(3), pages 1141-77, September.
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  12. Caroline M. Hoxby, 2001. "All School Finance Equalizations Are Not Created Equal," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 116(4), pages 1189-1231, November.
  13. Brunner, Eric & Sonstelie, Jon, 2003. "School finance reform and voluntary fiscal federalism," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(9-10), pages 2157-2185, September.
  14. Downes, Thomas A, 1996. " An Examination of the Structure of Governance in California School Districts before and after Proposition 13," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 86(3-4), pages 279-307, March.
  15. Thomas J. Nechyba, 1996. "Public School Finance in a General Equilibrium Tiebout World: Equalization Programs, Peer Effects and Private School Vouchers," NBER Working Papers 5642, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Figlio, David N., 1997. "Did the "tax revolt" reduce school performance?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(3), pages 245-269, September.
  17. Downes, Thomas A. & Schoeman, David, 1998. "School Finance Reform and Private School Enrollment: Evidence from California," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(3), pages 418-443, May.
  18. Levine, Phillip B & Zimmerman, David J, 1995. "The Benefit of Additional High-School Math and Science Classes for Young Men and Women," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 13(2), pages 137-49, April.
  19. Raquel Fernandez & Richard Rogerson, 1997. "Education finance reform: A dynamic perspective," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 16(1), pages 67-84.
  20. Downes, Thomas A., 1992. "Evaluating the Impact of School Finance Reform on the Provision of Public Education: The California Case," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 45(4), pages 405-19, December.
  21. Heckman, James, 2013. "Sample selection bias as a specification error," Applied Econometrics, Publishing House "SINERGIA PRESS", vol. 31(3), pages 129-137.
  22. William N. Evans & Sheila E. Murray & Robert M. Schwab, 1997. "Schoolhouses, courthouses, and statehouses after Serrano," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 16(1), pages 10-31.
  23. Manwaring, R.L. & Sheffrin, S.M., 1994. "The Effects of Education Equalization Litigation on the Levels of Funding: An Empirical Analysis," Papers 94-14, California Davis - Institute of Governmental Affairs.
  24. Hanushek, Eric A., 2006. "School Resources," Handbook of the Economics of Education, Elsevier.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Susan E. Mayer, 2001. "How Economic Segregation Affects Children's Educational Attainment," Working Papers 0118, Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago.
  2. Daniel Aaronson, 1998. "The effect of school finance reform on population heterogeneity," Working Paper Series WP-98-11, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  3. C. Kirabo Jackson & Rucker Johnson & Claudia Persico, 2014. "The Effect of School Finance Reforms on the Distribution of Spending, Academic Achievement, and Adult Outcomes," NBER Working Papers 20118, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Sims, David P., 2011. "Suing for your supper? Resource allocation, teacher compensation and finance lawsuits," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(5), pages 1034-1044, October.
  5. Lars P. Feld & Gebhard Kirchgassner, 2004. "Sustainable Fiscal Policy in a Federal System: Switzerland as an Example," CREMA Working Paper Series 2005-16, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
  6. Loeb, Susanna, 2001. "Estimating the effects of school finance reform: a framework for a federalist system," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 80(2), pages 225-247, May.
  7. Justina A.V. Fischer, 2005. "The Impact of Direct Democracy on Public Education: Performance of Swiss Students in Reading," University of St. Gallen Department of Economics working paper series 2005 2005-10, Department of Economics, University of St. Gallen.
  8. Katharine L. Bradbury & Karl E. Case & Chirstopher J. Mayer, 1998. "School quality and Massachusetts enrollment shifts in the context of tax limitations," New England Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, issue Jul, pages 3-20.
  9. Card, David & Payne, A. Abigail, 2002. "School finance reform, the distribution of school spending, and the distribution of student test scores," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 83(1), pages 49-82, January.
  10. Justina A.V. Fischer, 2005. "Do Institutions of Direct Democracy Tame the Leviathan? Swiss Evidence on the Structure of Expenditure for Public Education," CESifo Working Paper Series 1628, CESifo Group Munich.
  11. David Card & Abigail A. Payne, 1997. "School Finance Reform, the Distribution of School Spending, and the Distribution of SAT Scores," Working Papers 766, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  12. Gebhard Kirchgässner, 2001. "The Effects of Fiscal Institutions on Public Finance: A Survey of the Empirical Evidence," CESifo Working Paper Series 617, CESifo Group Munich.
  13. Figlio, David N., 1999. "Functional form and the estimated effects of school resources," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 241-252, April.
  14. Figlio, David N., 1998. "Short-Term Effects of a 1990s-Era Property Tax Limit: Panel Evidence on Oregon's Measure 5," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 51(n. 1), pages 55-70, March.
  15. Brian Jacob & Jens Ludwig, 2008. "Improving Educational Outcomes for Poor Children," NBER Working Papers 14550, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Fischer, Justina A.V., 2007. "The Impact of Direct Democracy on Public Education: Evidence for Swiss Students in Reading, Mathematics and Natural Science," Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance 688, Stockholm School of Economics.
  17. Susanna Loeb & Patrick J. McEwan, 2010. "Education Reforms," NBER Chapters, in: Targeting Investments in Children: Fighting Poverty When Resources are Limited, pages 145-178 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Rajashri Chakrabarti & Joydeep Roy, 2010. "Effect of constraints on tiebout competition: evidence from the Michigan school finance reform," Staff Reports 471, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  19. Eric J. Brunner & Jon Sonstelie, 2006. "California's School Finance Reform: An Experiment in Fiscal Federalism," Working papers 2006-09, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics.

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