Better Funding for Schools Improves Long-Term Outcomes for Students

Wednesday, January 20, 2016 at 9:19 AM by

A new research study bolsters a conclusion that many people had already drawn from real-world experience: Better funding for K-12 schools improves long-term outcomes for students. But rather than improve outcomes by making additional investments in Wisconsin’s school system, state lawmakers have chosen to reduce resources for schoolchildren in public schools.

The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities explains more about the study:

“The study, by researchers from Northwestern University and the University of California, Berkeley, examined data on more than 15,000 children born between 1955 and 1985.  During these children’s school years, some states raised funding for high-poverty schools due to court orders and other states didn’t, creating a fruitful environment for studying the impact of increased funding. 

After controlling for such factors as enrollment growth and economic conditions, the researchers found that poor children whose schools were estimated to receive and maintain a 10 percent increase in per-pupil spending (adjusted for inflation) before they began their 12 years of public school had 10 percent higher earnings — and 17 percent higher family income — in adulthood (see chart).  They also were likelier to complete high school and less likely as adults to be poor.

The researchers also found that a 10 percent increase in school spending is associated with 1.4 more school days per school year, a 4 percent increase in base teacher salaries, and a 6 percent reduction in student-teacher ratios.”


Additional investments lead to better outcomes for children – but in Wisconsin, the state is funding the school system at a level considerably below what it was in 2011. Every fiscal year since 2011, and going forward to 2017, the state has budgeted less in General Purpose Revenue (GPR) for school aids than it did in 2011, after amounts are adjusted for inflation. Those cuts add up fast: Over six years, lawmakers have cut a total of $2.6 billion from the state’s public school system.


The evidence that better funding for K-12 schools leads to long-term gains shows how Wisconsin can improve its economic prospects by restoring budget cuts to schools. If lawmakers rethink their priorities, they can help raise wages and improve the state’s economic prospects by making smart investments in Wisconsin’s educational system.

Tamarine Cornelius

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