NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Philadelphia Experiment: More Money, Less Education

November 28, 2000

In response to complaints that American education has declined over the past few decades, the education establishment has replied, "Send us more money!"

But districts that have answered the call to direct more resources to the public schools have been disappointed.

Take Philadelphia, for example. Philadelphia's public schools are among the worst in the nation, claim some observers. In an effort to reverse the downward spiral, the School District of Philadelphia implemented an improvement plan called "Children Achieving." The plan called for increased spending and in 1994-95, Philadelphia spent $6,261.17 per pupil.

However, a recent study found that the increased spending had little or no effect on student achievement.

  • The improvement in test scores of a quarter of the students (27 percent) was associated with the increased spending.
  • However, the declining test scores of 7 percent of students was also associated with the increased resources, while it had no effect on the test scores of a majority of students.
  • Based on these results, researchers estimate that a one point increase in the average score on the Pennsylvania System of School Achievement test would cost $200,000.

This is consistent with the finding that of the 10 states that consistently rank at the top on various achievement tests, only one is in the top ten in terms of per pupil spending.

According to the study, poverty is the most significant determinant of whether or not a student will succeed in school. Moreover, there is no proof that increased spending on public schools increases student achievement. However, it is possible that the education bureaucracy diverts those additional dollars from the classroom, where they might actually help.

Source: Jonathan Klick, "Do Dollars Make a Difference? The Relationship Between Expenditures and Test Scores in Pennsylvania's Public Schools," American Economist, Spring 2000.


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