COLUMBIA — More money for schools has no effect on student achievement, according to economists who spoke at the Show-Me Institute’s conference in Columbia on Tuesday.
The conference was held less than two weeks after the Committee for Educational Equality, made up of more than 240 Missouri school districts, lost a lawsuit against the state of Missouri for more funding. The Columbia Public School District was part of that lawsuit and has not yet decided whether to participate in an appeal.
Rex Sinquefield, a co-founder of the Show-Me institute, was also involved in that lawsuit. He was one of three taxpayers who joined the lawsuit in the state’s defense.
The economists presenting at the Show-Me Institute’s conference treated that decision as a victory. A copy of the court decision was even included in packets provided to all attendees.
“Money is not the main barrier to performance,” said University of Washington professor Paul Hill. “The main barrier to performance is how to use money more effectively.”
Robert Costrell, an economist at the University of Arkansas, showed that there is no consistent amount of money per student that a school district can spend in order to get that student to reach a target test score.
After controlling for variables such as race and socioeconomic status, Costrell found there is no relationship between school spending and student achievement.
Missouri Sens. Jeff Smith, D-St. Louis, and Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, as well as Missouri Rep. Edward Robb, R-Columbia, answered questions during a lunchtime panel.
“With this lawsuit specter behind us, we will be able to move forward,” Robb said, when asked what the aims of future educational policy were.
Legislators and economists alike, while disinclined to give more money to school districts, said more money should be given to better teachers.
The money would come as salary bonuses for teachers who improved their students’ achievement during the school year more than one grade level.
Robb was disturbed by the higher salaries earned by school administrators.
First citing Schools Superintendent Phyllis Chase’s wage of more than $200,000, he then said: “Better teachers should be the ones able to afford a Mercedes, not the principals.”
The theme of the day was that bonuses used as an award would encourage success within schools. Without those incentives, several economists said, little progress would be made.
James Guthrie, a professor at Vanderbilt University, addressed this issue and said, “When the education system has consequences for adults when children don’t learn, only then will we see results.”