Non-instructional Spending Improves Non-cognitive Outcomes:Discontinuity Evidence from a Unique Elementary School Counselor Financing System
Children’s non-cognitive skills, mental health, and behavior are important predictors of future earnings and educational attainment. Their behavior in the classroom also affects their peers’ behavior and achievement. There is limited prior evidence, however, concerning the impact of school resources on student behavior. Some elementary schools employ counselors whose primary purpose is to help improve students’ behavior, mental health, and non-cognitive skill acquisition. This paper estimates regression discontinuity models exploiting Alabama’s unique financing system for school counselors. Alabama fully subsidizes counselor appointments for all elementary schools, with the number of appointments based on schools’ prior year enrollments using discrete enrollment cutoffs. The results suggest that greater counselor subsidies reduce the frequency of disciplinary incidents but do not strongly influence mean student achievement test scores. Increases in counselors moderate relatively severe behavioral problems without necessarily improving systemic behavior affecting classroom learning.
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