Current Issue: Volume 15, Issue 4, Fall 2020

Education Finance and Policy - Volume 15, Issue 4, Fall 2020


The Effect of Local Labor Market Downturns on Postsecondary Enrollment and Program Choice. Andrew Foote and Michel Grosz. Education Finance and Policy Fall 2020, Vol. 15, No. 4, pp. 593–622

We examine how workers invest in human capital following unanticipated local labor market downturns. We find that, on average, two-year college enrollment increases by three students within three years for every one hundred workers laid off. This rise in enrollment accounts for half the observed increase in labor force nonparticipation following mass layoffs. Completions in career-technical programs also increase, especially in short-term certificates, but vary by field of study. We find the effect on completions is strongest in fields of study with larger earnings returns.

Nudging Technology Use: Descriptive and Experimental Evidence from School Information Systems. Peter Bergman. Education Finance and Policy Fall 2020, Vol. 15, No. 4, pp. 623–647

As schools are making significant investments in education technologies it is important to assess whether various products are adopted by their end users and whether they are effective as used. This paper studies the adoption and ability to promote usage of one type of technology that is increasingly ubiquitous: school-to-parent communication technologies. Analyzing usage data from a Learning Management System across several hundred schools and then conducting a two-stage experiment across fifty-nine schools to nudge the use of this technology by families, I find that 57 percent of families ever use it, and adoption correlates strongly with measures of income and student achievement. Although a simple nudge increases usage and modestly improves student achievement, without more significant intervention to encourage usage by disadvantaged families, these technologies may exacerbate gaps in information access across income and performance levels.

Cross-Generational Differences in Educational Outcomes in the Second Great Wave of Immigration. David Figlio and Umut Özek. Education Finance and Policy Fall 2020, Vol. 15, No. 4, pp. 648–674

We use matched birth records and longitudinal student records in Florida to investigate whether first-, second-, and third-generation Asian and Hispanic immigrants have different educational success (measured by test scores, disciplinary problems, truancy, high school graduation, and college readiness). We find that, for both Asian and Hispanic students, early-arriving first generation immigrants perform better than do second-generation immigrants, who perform better than third-generation immigrants. The earlier the arrival, the better the students tend to perform. There is therefore a general pattern of successively reduced achievement in the generations following the generation that immigrated to the United States.

Does School Finance Reform Reduce the Race Gap in School Funding?. Michah W. Rothbart. Education Finance and Policy Fall 2020, Vol. 15, No. 4, pp. 675–707

This paper offers new evidence on the impacts of school finance reforms (SFRs) precipitated by school finance litigation, exploring the extent to which the impact of SFR differs by district racial composition. Using difference-in-differences and event study models with a series of district and year (or state-by-year) fixed effects, and a sixteen-year panel of over 10,000 school districts, my analyses exploit variation in funding across school districts, and timing of school finance court orders across states, to estimate the effect of SFR on the distribution of district funding by racial composition. Models include relevant control variables available in national data and results are robust to numerous alternative specifications, including estimating impacts on percent changes in resources (in addition to levels), restricting analyses to districts in SFR states, controlling for additional covariates available in only some years and some states, and adding controls for state-specific time trends. In addition, I estimate changes in New York State to assess whether and to what extent results are sensitive to additional controls for revenue-raising capacity and district costs. Results suggest that SFR can work to alleviate racial funding gaps, though impacts are moderate.

When Does Money Stick in Education? Evidence from A Kinked Grant Rule. Antti Saastamoinen and Mika Kortelainen. Education Finance and Policy Fall 2020, Vol. 15, No. 4, pp. 708–735

We study the effects of intergovernmental grants on school spending within the Finnish system of high school education funding. Using a kinked grant rule, the system allocates lump-sum intergovernmental grants to local high school education providers. Utilizing the quasi-experimental variation in grants given by the rule, we identify the effects of the grants on municipal high school education expenditures. Our results indicate that the grants stimulate spending, while local tax rates or revenues do not seem to be responsive to the grants, suggesting the presence of a typical flypaper effect. However, we also consider the possibility that the grant responses might be heterogeneous among municipalities. Based on our heterogeneity results, the grant response is positively associated with the share of the high school age population, and a higher share of elderly persons is related to a lower propensity to spend on education out of grant funding. This result is in line with the idea of intergenerational conflict in education spending preferences presented in education finance literature.

Do Teach For America Corps Members Still Improve Student Achievement? Evidence from a Randomized Controlled Trial of Teach For America's Scale-Up Effort. Melissa A. Clark and Eric Isenberg. Education Finance and Policy Fall 2020, Vol. 15, No. 4, pp. 736–760

In 2010, Teach For America (TFA) launched a major expansion effort, funded in part by a five-year Investing in Innovation scale-up grant from the U.S. Department of Education. To examine the effectiveness of TFA elementary school teachers in the second year of the scale-up, we recruited thirty-six schools from ten states and randomly assigned students in participating schools to a class taught by a TFA teacher or a class taught by a comparison teacher. We then gathered data on student achievement and surveyed teachers on their educational background, preparation for teaching, and teaching experience. The TFA teachers in the study schools had substantially less teaching experience than comparison teachers but were more likely to have graduated from a selective college. Overall, TFA and comparison teachers in the study were similarly effective in teaching both reading and math. TFA teachers in early elementary classrooms (grades 2 and below), however, were more effective than comparison teachers: TFA teachers in prekindergarten through grade 2 had a positive, statistically significant effect of 0.12 standard deviations on students’ reading achievement, and TFA teachers in grades 1 and 2 had a positive, marginally significant effect of 0.16 standard deviations on student math achievement.

Policy Brief

Civic Engagement in Education: Insights from California's Local Control Funding Formula. Julie A. Marsh, Tasminda K. Dhaliwal, Michelle Hall, and Morgan S. Polikoff. Education Finance and Policy Fall 2020, Vol. 15, No. 4, pp. 761–774

In this policy brief, we use the case of California's Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) to provide policy makers and educators guidance on how to involve the public in goal setting and resource distribution decisions. We provide clarity around who is and is not participating, why, and what broader lessons we can draw for implementing federal and state education policies mandating public engagement. Our findings indicate tremendous room for improvement. LCFF's target populations (e.g., low-income, English learners) are not more likely to be aware of or participate in decisions than nontargeted groups, which suggests weak accountability for the use of public funds by the policy's target populations. Although LCFF has defined a broad set of stakeholders, only a narrow segment of the public (i.e., individuals with stronger ties to and positive views of schools) is aware of and engaging with the policy. Finally, we find a substantial gap between actual participation in LCFF and interest in participation, which may relate to a lack of self-efficacy, time, trust, perceived appropriateness, and information. As states and districts respond to mandates for engagement, these results suggest the need for greater investments in: (1) communication, (2) targeting a range of stakeholders, and (3) capacity building.