Study Concludes that Money Does Matter; Schools Need an Additional $226 to $408
On March 4, 2004, researchers in Texas released a costing-out
study that demonstrated that the amount needed on average to provide an adequate
education as defined by state and federal standards is slightly below the current
average amount per student the state already spends. However, they also conclude
that more than 400 school districts will require an additional $226 million to
$408 million to reach the level of adequacy as defined by the study. The research
team from Texas A& M University also reported to the Joint Select Committee on
Public School Finance that the results of the study suggest a strong relationship
between resources and student outcomes - in other words, money
does matter when trying to boost student achievement.
study, completed in six months, calculated the amount
of funding necessary for the state's more than 1000
school districts to satisfy state and federal standards.
The report defines an adequate school district as having:
55% of its students passing state achievement tests in math and reading;|
average percentage of high school students passing at least one advanced placement
average percentage of students receiving a score of 1110 on the SAT or 24 on the
The study did not consider the cost of transportation,
facilities, food services, and revenue for debt service.
The authors conclude
that at least $6,172 to $6,271 per student is needed to provide an adequate education.
The current average expenditure per student is $6,503. The researchers also found
that special categories of students require additional funding support beyond
the average base cost per student, such as:
low-income (additional $1,960); |
English Language Learners (additional $1,248);|
special education students with less severe disabilities (additional $3,695);
education students with more severe disabilities (additional $5,306); |
high school students (additional $4,001). |
This is the first major study commissioned by
a state government which utilizes the statistical modeling or econometric
approach to costing-out analysis. The authors of the study cite both the diversity
of Texas' student population and the wealth of reliable education data as factors
in their decision to use a cost function analysis or econometric approach. This
student performance levels resulting from education spending, varied for different
characteristics of districts, students, schools etc., to calculate the estimated
cost necessary to reach a defined level of achievement.
The cost function
analysis is also used to measure the "efficiency" of school districts and their
ability to achieve the best possible outcomes with the level of resources provided.
The study calculated the average level of inefficiency to be 7% among school districts
In a related
study, researchers also determined that the Texas Cost of Education Index
(CEI) must be updated to account for differences across the state in the costs
of hiring and retaining staff and teachers.
The majority of previous costing-out
studies have used the Professional
Judgment and Successful
A number of critics have voiced concern that
the study utilized a very low definition of what is a minimally adequate education,
noting that although a 55% passing rate on state standardized tests meets state
and NCLB requirements, 64% of the state's students passed the tests last year.
Some commentators also noted that the study only considers costs for the math
and reading portions of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS), and
not the cost of preparations for other sections of the exam. Furthermore, they
remark that the study also does not cost out programs to reduce the number of
dropouts and utilizes only the number of students who receive free lunch as an
indication of poverty, without consideration of students who qualify for reduced-price
According to the Dallas
News, attorneys for the plaintiffs in West
Orange-Cove Consolidated ISD v. Nelson, the Texas school funding adequacy
case scheduled to begin trial in late July 2004, also rejected the findings of
the costing-out study and the standards used by the research team.
March 10, 2004