In this column, JLF’s Terry Stoops discusses the empirical data about the impact of higher per-pupil spending on student outcome, and he asks the question I’ve been wondering for some time.

 In his book Education Myths, University of Arkansas professor Jay Greene pointed out that the myth of inadequately funded schools “is simultaneously the most widely held idea about education in America and the one that is most directly at odds with the available evidence.”

Greene reviewed the available research on the issue and concluded that a lack of resources was “not one of the major problems affecting our schools’ performance.” 

More recently, Andrew Coulson of the Cato Institute published an excellent empirical study examining the relationship between resources and performance. In “State Education Trends: Academic Performance and Spending over the Past 40 Years,” Coulson adjusted education spending for inflation and adjusted state-average SAT scores for participation rates and student demographics. He found that most states had massive increases in public school spending but relatively no change in student outcomes. 

North Carolina was no different. Despite doubling our state’s inflation-adjusted per pupil expenditure between 1972 and 2012, there was very little change in North Carolina’s adjusted SAT scores over time.

Given the ample empirical evidence that higher funding does not drive better outcomes, why is the inadequately funded school myth so pervasive? 

Read further into Stoops’ column and you’ll find out what he thinks is at the root of the funding myth.