Public school funding has quadrupled during the past few decades, spurred by court rulings requiring states to increase such funding. Yet American students rank below average when compared to other developed countries, even though the United States significantly outspends them. Clearly something needs to be done to improve the quality of education?
In their newly released book Schoolhouses, Courthouses, and Statehouses: Solving the Funding-Achievement Puzzle in America’s Public Schools (Princeton University Press, June, 2009), Hoover fellow Eric A. Hanushek and Alfred A. Lindseth trace the history of reform efforts and conclude that the principal focus of both courts and legislatures concerning funding issues has done little to improve student achievement. Instead, the authors propose adopting a performance-based system that directly links funding to successfully raising student achievement.
“The simplest and most persuasive explanation is that the incentives today do not focus on improved student outcomes,” said Hanushek, talking about the lack of significant improvements in student achievement. “Added funding for schools is not related to performance. Indeed it is often perverse—rewarding poor performance and punishing good performance.”
Hanushek and Lindseth have been participants in the school funding debate for three decades. They draw on their experiences, as well as the best available research and data, to show why improving schools will require overhauling the way financing, incentives, and accountability work in public education.
“Schoolhouses, Courthouses, and Statehouses develops an innovative plan of performance-based funding that directly links funding and policy actions,” said Lindseth. “The central elements of this proposal are accurately defining and measuring what is desired, rewarding schools and teachers who contribute to student achievement, enabling local decision making including mobilizing parents, and holding people accountable for results.”
Eric A. Hanushek, the Paul and Jean Hanna Senior Fellow in Education at the Hoover Institution and a member of the Hoover Institution’s Koret Task Force on K–12 Education, is a leading figure in the study of the economics of education. Alfred A. Lindseth is of counsel with the law firm of Sutherland Asbill & Brennan and a nationally recognized expert in school finance law.
For more information on Schoolhouses, Courthouses, and Statehouses or its authors, please contact Craig Steinburg at csteinburg [at] policyimpact.com or 703-839-5883.
Schoolhouses, Courthouses, and Statehouses:
Solving the Funding-Achievement Puzzle in America's Public Schools
by Eric A. Hanushek and Alfred A. Lindseth
|432 pages||June 2009|