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School Finance Reform and School Quality: Lessons from Vermont

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  • Thomas Downes

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Abstract

In June of 1997, the elected leaders of Vermont enacted the Equal Educational Opportunity Act (Act 60) in response to a state supreme court decision in Brigham v. State. Act 60 could provide a unique opportunity to determine if dramatic school finance reforms like those enacted in Vermont generate greater equality in measured student performance. This paper represents an attempt to document the changes in the distributions of spending and of student performance that have occurred in the post-Act 60 period. This paper begins with an overview of the institutional structure of educational finance and provision in Vermont. One purpose of this overview is to make the argument that the Vermont case is particularly interesting because there have not been dramatic demographics changes that could obscure the impact of finance reforms. With this context established, I then use a panel of Vermont school districts that spans the pre- and post-Act 60 period to examine the extent to which there has been convergence across school districts in per pupil expenditures and in student performance. Spending has clearly converged; a definitive answer on the extent of convergence in student performance must wait until more years of data are available.

Suggested Citation

  • Thomas Downes, 2003. "School Finance Reform and School Quality: Lessons from Vermont," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 0309, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
  • Handle: RePEc:tuf:tuftec:0309
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    File URL: http://ase.tufts.edu/econ/papers/200309.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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 405-419, December.
    4. Caroline M. Hoxby, 2001. "All School Finance Equalizations are Not Created Equal," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(4), pages 1189-1231.
    5. Robert Manwaring & Steven Sheffrin, 1997. "Litigation, School Finance Reform, and Aggregate Educational Spending," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 4(2), pages 107-127, May.
    6. 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.
    7. 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.
    8. Roland BĂ©nabou, 1996. "Equity and Efficiency in Human Capital Investment: The Local Connection," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 63(2), pages 237-264.
    9. Murray, Sheila E & Evans, William N & Schwab, Robert M, 1998. "Education-Finance Reform and the Distribution of Education Resources," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(4), pages 789-812, September.
    10. 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.
    11. Husted, Thomas A & Kenny, Lawrence W, 2000. "Evidence on the Impact of State Government on Primary and Secondary Education and the Equity-Efficiency Trade-Off," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 43(1), pages 285-308, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Joydeep Roy, 2011. "Impact of School Finance Reform on Resource Equalization and Academic Performance: Evidence from Michigan," Education Finance and Policy, MIT Press, vol. 6(2), pages 137-167, April.
    2. Stephen J. Schmidt & Karen Scott, 2004. "Reforming Reforms: Incentive Effects in Education Finance in Vermont," Rensselaer Working Papers in Economics 0425, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Department of Economics.
    3. Joydeep Roy, 2004. "Effect of a School Finance Reform on Housing Stock and Residential Segregation: Evidence from Proposal A in Michigan," Public Economics 0412004, EconWPA.

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