Take your 65 cents and …well… you know

I was pleased to read this morning that the Texas Legislature is now finally reconsidering the error of adopting into law the 65% requirement pitched by pundits a few years back as a revenue neutral “solution” for increasing education spending.


Of course, it was in Texas that the actual agenda of those pundits was revealed in a memo exposed in the Austin American Statesman.

Doug Elmer of the University of Kansas and I wrote about the 65 cent solution in the January 2009 issue of Educational Policy (The Politics of Off-the-Shelf School Finance Reform).


What makes the 65 cent solution so interesting, in retrospect, is that it was a “reform” that in some states become legislation, but was never based on any evidence whatsoever that allocating 65 cents of every “education dollar” improves outcomes. In fact, Doug Elmer and I discuss the best empirical research on this topic which suggests otherwise.

Further, setting aside those good empirical studies of the relationship between instructional budget shares and student outcomes, the basic argument for the 65 cent solution was utterly absurd. The 65 cent solution was based on the argument that public school systems are inefficient and wasteful and should be told how to use their money. So… the 65 cent target was selected as roughly (slightly higher than) the average percent of current expenditures allocated to instruction (based on NCES expenditure data). So… the idea is that school districts are inneficient and wasteful in general, therefore we should ask them all to spend roughly like the average public school district? Good thinkin’… eh?