The results of this analysis suggest that there is no statistically meaningful correlation between how much individual public schools in Michigan spend and how well their students perform on standardized tests. In the one area where there was a measurable and statistically significant correlation, the size of the impact of additional spending was very small. This implies that simply spending more on public schools is not likely to produce improvements to student achievement.

This type of result might surprise some, considering that when schools spend more, they can hire more teachers and devote more resources to instruction. But it could also be the case that public schools, on average, fail to spend additional resources in ways that measurably improve student achievement.

For instance, the University of Washington’s Center for Reinventing Public Education conducted a six-year study to assess the nation’s various school finance systems. They concluded that school finance systems are constructed more around the needs of adults than students and are designed to foster compliance rather than results. Further, the research team observed that these systems are not equipped to provide the detailed information that would show which uses of funds are more productive than others. In other words, public schools may not even have the information they would need to know how to most effectively spend more money in order to boost student achievement.[24]

Eric Hanushek has argued that unless the incentive structure changes in K-12 schools, increasing the funding of public schools is unlikely to be an effective strategy to improving student performance. He analyzed the ways in which school systems have used extra money: to reward teachers for gaining more experience or obtaining more advanced degrees, to increase the number of teachers as a means of reducing class sizes, and to hire more noninstructional staff for various support and administrative purposes. Statistical analyses have not found that increased spending generally increases student outcomes, at least as measured on standardized tests.[25]

Again, none of this is to say that resources never or cannot matter when it comes to improving student achievement. However, the bulk of the research on this question suggests that given the way public schools currently spend their resources, it is unlikely that just adding extra resources to the equation, all else being equal, will generate meaningful improvements to student performance.