JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri must pour up to $1.3 billion more into public schools to ensure students receive a sound education, a witness for school districts suing the state testified Wednesday.
Andrew Wall, an assistant professor of education at the University of Rochester in New York, studied Missouri students’ performance on standardized tests. He used statistical models to determine the relationship between spending and student performance and found that Missouri should be spending $7,901 per child for all students to be proficient in English and math.
State and local spending currently averages $6,393 per student, Wall said. Multiplying that difference of $1,508 by an enrollment of 877,795 students, Wall concluded the state would need to spend an additional $1.3 billion to provide an adequate education.
In making that calculation, he adjusted the data for what educators believe are extra costs to educate poor students, whom Wall found cost twice as much. Without that factor, the additional amount needed would be $480.5 million, he found, or $6,931 per child.
“There is a relationship between achievement and funding,” he said.
About half the state’s 524 school districts have sued the state, arguing it’s not spending enough on public education and not distributing the money fairly.
Wall’s study did not consider federal funds, which account for about 9.5 percent of schools’ funding on average, leading some attorneys to question his methods.
“How can you predict the effects of moneys that are spent on children without including an analysis of the federal funds that were actually spent on those children?” asked Joshua Schindler, an attorney helping defend the state’s funding method.
“The state doesn’t have control over federal expenditures, so we’re parceling out what is the state’s role,” Wall responded.
The trial began Jan. 3 and is expected to last a few more weeks.