New York spends more per student than any other state. A new study suggests it should spend more.

By Alex Zimmerman for chalkbeat.org

Education advocates have insisted the state has skimped on funding its schools. But New York State already has the highest per-student funding rate of any in the country — could moving that number up make a difference?

The findings add new evidence to a heated debate that has raged for decades about whether the state’s schools are adequately funded, an issue that actress Cynthia Nixon has made a pillar of her underdog campaign against Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Set to be published in the peer-reviewed Economics of Education Review, the study takes advantage of a provision in the state’s funding formula known as “Save Harmless” that allows districts to maintain their funding even if they lose students. Since many districts across the state have suffered enrollment declines, they have boosted the amount of money they spend per student. (New York City was excluded from the study because of its unusually large size and technical issues matching its data with other districts.)

By comparing districts that lost students — resulting in more money spent per remaining student — with those that saw smaller declines, the researchers were able to isolate the effect of the funding increases. Using data from 2007 through 2015, they found that a $1,000 in increase  per student corresponded with an increase of one-seventh of a grade level in math and one-ninth of a grade level in English. (On average, districts spend just over $23,000 per student across the state, a 15 percent increase since 2007.)

“The fact that we find positive effects of increased spending even in New York State, which boasts the highest per-pupil spending in the country, suggests that resources are important even above some adequacy threshold,” wrote co-authors Philip Gigliotti and Lucy Sorensen, both affiliated with the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy at the University at Albany.

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