Prairie State Wire

Prairie State Wire

Friday, April 10, 2020

Stanford analyst: Illinois school funding changes won't improve student performance


By W.J. Kennedy | Aug 15, 2017


The evidence-based school funding formula Illinois will adopt once the Legislature and Gov. Bruce Rauner finally agree on the particulars in Senate Bill 1 brings with it only one guarantee: Taxpayers will pay billions more for an input-driven formula that has no proven track record of success, an education analyst told Prairie State Wire.

Eric Hanushek, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University and an expert in the development of economic analysis of educational issues, told the Prairie State Wire that there is little evidence to support claims of success with an evidence-based school funding system.

“If you listen to the supporters of this system, we should have a bunch of newfound geniuses running around the schools, but achievement has not jumped forward," Hanushek said.

Ted Dabrowski, Illinois Policy Institute

The evidence-based formula was developed by Lawrence Picus of the University of Southern California and Allan Odden of the University of Wisconsin, who since 2000 have conducted school finance studies in numerous states.

In his article “Confidence Men: Selling Adequacy, Making Millions,” Hanushek said that claims of improvement along the lines of three to six standard deviations would be an “extraordinary gain.” One full standard deviation is approximately equivalent to the average difference in test score performance between a fourth-grader and an eighth-grader.

Rather, Hanushek said the professors and other supporters of the method have selected studies that have in some instances demonstrated improvements in student achievement.

But the evidence supports no across-the-board demonstrations of higher student achievement. An analysis by the Illinois Policy Institute of student achievements in states using the evidence-based formula – Ohio, North Dakota, Arkansas and Wyoming – found that progress “failed to grow at the rate the evidence-based formula promises.” In fact, results on National Assessment Educational Progress tests have been “virtually flat.”

Those states have collectively spent billions of additional dollars on select education programs.

The added costs to Illinois will be significant as well. Ted Dabrowski, vice president of policy at the institute, said the increase will be in the range of $3.5 to $6 billion over the next 10 years.

“The $5 billion raised from the recent tax increases (personal and corporate) won’t be enough,” he said. “They’re going to need more.”

But there's an upside for lawmakers, Hanushek said.

“Year-to-year school funding votes are often very contentious,” he said. “This (evidence-based model) takes the pressure off the politicians.”

Illinois ranks 13th in the nation in its education spending per student and already spends more than any other state in the Midwest.

The Senate on Sunday voted Aug. 13 to override the governor’s amendatory veto of the school funding measure, SB1. It was not immediately unclear whether the House would follow suit. 

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Stanford UniversityIllinois Policy InstituteIllinois General Assembly

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