Honors Theses

Date of Award

2019

Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis

Department

Economics

First Advisor

Thomas Garrett

Relational Format

Dissertation/Thesis

Abstract

This thesis seeks to contribute to the broader conversation over the relationship between school spending and student outcomes. Using twenty-two public school districts in the St. Louis area, annual data on instructional expenditures and two measures of student outcomes (average composite ACT score and the percentage of high school graduates to enroll at a 2- or 4- year college or university within 180 days of graduation) was collected by request from the Missouri Department of Education and Secondary Education. Regression analysis was conducted with this data to determine whether or not raw changes in instructional expenditures per student or the amount that a school district “focuses” on instruction (instructional expenditures as a percentage of total expenditures) influence these measures of outcomes. The findings indicate no relationship between changes in instructional spending per student and the selected outcome measures but support the proposed “65-percent rule”, a common guideline throughout the relevant academic literature which suggests that 65-percent of a school district’s budget should be allocated to instruction. Ultimately, the results indicate that a student’s family background and environmental factors are far more important in influencing student performance than changes in instructional expenditures per student, and that allocation is a more effective avenue through which policymakers can improve student performance than simply increasing the amount of funding which a school district receives.

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