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APRIL 9, 2024

Critical Shortcomings Weaken Education Funding Report

An NEPC Review funded by the Great Lakes Center

Key Takeaway: Report's conclusions about the relationship between funding growth and academic outcome are undermined by methodological flaws and lack of meaningful insights.

GRAND RAPIDS, MI (April 9, 2024) - A growing and persuasive body of research has established the causal relationship between school funding and academic outcomes. The reality that money matters is not in serious dispute. But a new report from the Reason Foundation uses some superficial comparisons to try again to muddy the waters.

Clive Belfield, a professor at the City University of New York and Principal Economist at the Center for Benefit-Cost Studies in Education, University of Pennsylvania, reviewed Public Education at a Crossroads: A Comprehensive Look at K-12 Resources and Outcomes, finding it to use poor methodology and analysis to lead to its vacuous conclusions-most pointedly that there “isn't a consistent relationship between funding growth and outcomes across states.”

The report uses national education data, including NAEP test scores in math and reading, to describe trends in spending, teacher pay, and academic outcomes from 2002-03 up to the start of the pandemic. It describes trends of increasing revenue, declining teacher pay, and growing employment in non-instructional support positions.

The report contends that to move forward in the aftermath of the pandemic, it is important to understand key pre-pandemic trends. But it offers no arguments as to how those trends provide appropriate context for post-pandemic educational policy. Simply restating readily available evidence, the report's conclusions fail to provide any valuable insights.

Professor Belfield concludes, then, that the report's failure to consider state- and national-level economic, social, or demographic trends, combined with its deficient or nonexistent analysis, result in conclusions that policymakers would do well to ignore.

Find the review, by Clive Belfield, at:

Find Public Education at a Crossroads: A Comprehensive Look at K-12 Resources and Outcomes, written by Aaron Garth Smith, Christian Barnard, and Jordan Campbell and published by the Reason Foundation, at:

NEPC Reviews ( provide the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. NEPC Reviews are made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice:

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The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice is to support and disseminate high-quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.

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Michelle Renee Valladares
(720) 505-1958

Clive Belfield:
(718) 997-5440,