As legislators debate the state’s General Fund spending plan for the year that begins July 1, Big Education advocates continue their calls for more and more money to be spent on public schools. Sounds like a nice talking point, but the fact is, most empirical evidence does not support the argument that higher spending leads to greater student achievement.

This study synthesizes findings from 888 articles published in peer-reviewed journals or by the National Bureau of Economic Research since 1990. We focus on studies that explore relationships between inputs or policies (such as per-pupil expenditure, average teacher salary, class size, performance pay, and school choice) and student outcomes (such as test scores, dropout rates, and college attendance).

In our survey, we found 116 studies that explored the link between per-pupil spending and student outcomes. Higher spending was associated with higher student performance only 32 percent of the time, after adjusting for student background and other factors mostly or entirely outside the control of schools.

Similarly, of the 90 studies examining the link between average teacher salaries and student outcomes, 56 percent found mixed or statistically insignificant results.

What should we take away from the evidence, and what should North Carolina lawmakers do next?

There are no automatic benefits from raising government spending on education.

North Carolina’s teacher salary schedule should place greater emphasis on effort and effectiveness, with less emphasis on credentials and experience.

North Carolina needs to adopt the right mix of centralized and decentralized authority.

North Carolina should continue to encourage parental choice and school competition statewide.