A Quantitative Study of per Pupil Expenditures, Spending in Relation to Adequacy Budget, and SAT Scores in New Jersey High Schools

Whitmore, Monica S.
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School funding in the State of New Jersey has a long history of judicial and legislative reform efforts. In 2008, a weighted and adjusted formula was approved to determine how much state aid each district would receive on an annual basis. Recent changes to state aid have underscored the fragility of the funding system. Those who make decisions regarding how much spending is adequate to ensure thorough and efficient education need quantitative data to support changes. The purpose of this line of inquiry was to examine how the measures of per pupil expenditures and spending, as compared to what is considered adequate, relate to student achievement in New Jersey (NJ) high schools. In other words, does money matter in NJ schools? There have been research studies on related topics; however, these questions have been largely unanswered, given the context of the current political and economic landscape in NJ. This study examined the relationship between student achievement and two different measures of educational funding in the state of New Jersey: (1) per pupil expenditures and the (2) state’s adequacy budget. There is a lack of quantitative data supporting the use of these spending measures as benchmarks or guides to support financial decision making. A multiple regression found that there was no statistically significant relationship between per pupil expenditures and student achievement on the SATs after adjusting for district factor groups. Thus, per pupil expenditures are not a reliable measure of how much money districts should spend. A one-way ANOVA found a statistically significant difference in the means of adequacy budget ratios (spending/NJ’s adequacy budget calculation) groups when compared to achievement on the SATs. Districts with “over-adequate” spending had higher average SAT scores, while districts with “below-adequate” spending had lower average SAT scores. This study found that NJ’s adequacy budget calculation can be relied on to determine how much spending is necessary at the district level.
Monica S. Whitmore Dissertation