Public Schooling in Louisiana and Mississippi


Here are some quick summary points regarding education funding and student outcomes in Louisiana and Mississippi, two states getting some national attention these days…

1. In Louisiana, according to data on 5 to 17 year olds from the American Community Surveys of 2005 to 2007, approximately 17% of children avoid the public schooling system to attend private schools. That’s second highest in the nation. Mississippi is closer to, but still above the middle among states.

2. In addition to ranking second highest in non-public school attendance, Louisiana also ranks second lowest in “effort” in financing public schools, where effort is measured as total state and local spending on public education as a percentage of gross state product. Mississipi, because it is a generally poorer state with lower GSP, is nearer the average on effort.

3. Both states rank near the bottom annually on the reading and math portions of the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

4. Both states rank near the bottom annually on state and local per pupil spending on public schools even after adjusting for regional variation in competitive wages and for various other characteristics of public schools (size, poverty rate, etc.).

The two figures below are illustrative of the position of Louisiana and Mississippi on questions of education funding, effort and outcomes.

Regional Wage and Cost Adjusted State and Local Revenues and NAEP Reading
Regional Wage and Cost Adjusted State and Local Revenues and NAEP Reading

This first chart shows that there exists a modest relationship between state and local spending on education across states and NAEP reading scores. And two states that spend little and achieve little are Louisiana and Mississippi.

Effort and NAEP Reading
Effort and NAEP Reading

This second graph shows the relationship between Effort (% of GDP spent on public schools including state and local resources) and NAEP reading scores. As noted above, Mississippi puts up relatively average effort but in spite of this effort simply cannot muster the resources to achieve desirable outcomes with it’s very high poverty student population.

Lousiana has much less excuse than Mississippi. It’s effort is low. It’s spending is low, and indeed it’s outcomes are low, for those who remain left behind in public schools in Lousiana.

Published by schoolfinance101

Bruce Baker is an Professor in the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. From 1997 to 2008 he was a professor at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, KS. He is lead author with Preston Green (Penn State University) and Craig Richards (Teachers College, Columbia University) of Financing Education Systems, a graduate level textbook on school finance policy published by Merrill/Prentice-Hall. Professor Baker has written a multitude of peer reviewed research articles on state school finance policy, teacher labor markets, school leadership labor markets and higher education finance and policy. His recent work has focused on measuring cost variations associated with schooling contexts and student population characteristics, including ways to better design state school finance policies and local district allocation formulas (including Weighted Student Funding) for better meeting the needs of students. Baker, along with Preston Green of Penn State University are co-authors of the chapter on Conceptions of Equity in the recently released Handbook of Research Education Finance and Policy, and co-authors of the chapter on the Politics of Education Finance in the Handbook of Education Politics and Policy and co-authors of the chapter on School Finance in the Handbook of Education Policy of the American Educational Research Association. Professor Baker has also consulted for state legislatures, boards of education and other organizations on education policy and school finance issues and has testified in state school finance litigation in Kansas, Missouri and Arizona. He is a member of the Think Tank Review Panel, a group of academic researchers who conduct technical reviews of publicly released think tank reports on education policy issues.

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