Are Missouri Schools Underfunded?
Though there is overwhelming evidence (here, here, and here) that increasing spending on education will not lead to better results, the calls for more money seemingly never cease. Most recently, the Missouri Budget Project released a report claiming Missouri is underfunding education to the tune of $656 million. Let me say this boldly and clearly, the Missouri Budget Project is correct. That is, if you define “underfunding” as not fully funding the formula. If, however, you define “underfunding” as not providing enough money to provide a quality education, then they may be wrong. Let me explain.
Yesterday on the Show-Me Daily blog, my colleague Michael Rathbone pointed out that “there is no correlation between how much a school district is ‘underfunded’ and its actual performance.” In other words, districts that are more underfunded do just as well as districts that are nearly fully funded.
In the table below, I present all of the districts that scored a 100 percent and a 70 percent or below on the 2013 Missouri School Improvement Program Annual Performance Report (MSIP 5). Next to each district’s MSIP 5 score, I present the amount each district is underfunded per student as reported by the Missouri Budget Project. As you can see, in many cases, schools that are doing very well are relatively more “underfunded” than our lowest-performing schools.
So, are Missouri schools “underfunded”? It depends on what definition you use. They are underfunded when using the definition that the Missouri Budget Project uses, but they may not be if underfunded means “adequately” funded. Maybe we need to start rethinking how we fund education, not just how much.
Level of “Underfunding” in Missouri’s Best- and Worst-Performing Schools