Education advocacy groups are lobbying for a $250 billion bailout for K-12 schools and higher education. But Congress and the Trump administration should take a careful look at the research before they decide whether to cut another check.
There’s little doubt that COVID-19 will harm learning for many students. A third of a school year was effectively canceled. The massive spike in unemployment and the economic fallout will pose significant stress on families. But will school budget cuts really harm student outcomes?
A 2018 working paper by Northwestern University professor Kirabo Jackson and his colleagues claimed to find clear evidence of harm caused by budget cuts from the Great Recession. Their first draft, which was covered in the Economist, Vox, Chalkbeat, Hechinger Report, FutureEd, and Education Next found that a 10% cut in education spending yielded a 7% of a standard deviation decrease in academic achievement, and over four years, decreased graduation rates by nearly 3 percentage points. A revised draft (featuring a substantially smaller effect on achievement and examining college-going rather than graduation) was recently accepted for publication at American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, where Jackson serves as an editor.
Fortunately for America’s students and taxpayers, the results are largely an artifact of a flawed methodology.
Corey DeAngelis is the director of school choice at Reason Foundation and an adjunct scholar at Cato Institute.
Photo by GlobalStock/iStock