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Why is it so hard to help central city schools?

  • William Duncombe

    (Center for Policy Research, The Maxwell School, Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York)

  • John Yinger

    (Center for Policy Research, The Maxwell School, Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York)

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    Many states have implemented educational grant systems designed to provide more aid to school districts that are, by some standard, in greater need. Nevertheless, many if not most central city school systems continue to produce poor educational outcomes, as measured, for example, by test scores and dropout rates. Using data from New York State, this article asks why existing aid formulas fail to provide the assistance that central city school districts need to bring their educational outcomes up to reasonable standards. Two principal explanations are explored: the failure of existing aid programs to recognize the high cost of providing education in central cities and the possibility that aid simply makes central cities less efficient without raising educational outcomes. The article presents aid programs that account for costs, but shows that these revised programs will do little to help central cities without at least one politically unpopular provision, namely a large state budget or a high required local property tax rate. The article also estimates the extent to which increased aid to central cities leads to their less efficient operation, thereby undermining the objective of improved educational outcomes for central city students. The article concludes by listing the steps that a state can take to help central city schools and by discussing the yet unresolved problems that arise in helping these districts.

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    Article provided by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. in its journal Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.

    Volume (Year): 16 (1997)
    Issue (Month): 1 ()
    Pages: 85-113

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    Handle: RePEc:wly:jpamgt:v:16:y:1997:i:1:p:85-113
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/34787/home

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    1. Reschovsky, Andrew, 1994. "Fiscal Equalization and School Finance," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 47(1), pages 185-97, March.
    2. Ratcliffe, Kerri & Riddle, Bruce & Yinger, John, 1990. "The fiscal condition of school districts in Nebraska: Is small beautiful?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 9(1), pages 81-99, March.
    3. Fare, Rolf & Knox Lovell, C. A., 1978. "Measuring the technical efficiency of production," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 19(1), pages 150-162, October.
    4. Downes, Thomas A. & Pogue, Thomas F., 1994. "Adjusting School Aid Formulas for the Higher Cost of Educating Disadvantaged Students," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 47(1), pages 89-110, March.
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