For many years, economist Eric Hanushek has been the most outspoken critic of spending more for schools. He has written books and articles, given lectures, acted as a paid witness at trials in support of that position. His view is that HOW money is spent matters more than adding new money. Conservative politicians love his work because it gives them cover for their policy of underfunding schools.

Matt Barnum wrote an excellent, in-depth article about Hanushek’s long career as a proponent of the view that “money doesn’t matter,” what matters is how it’s spent. Barnum digs deep into Hanushek’s work and the decades-long debate. The upshot based on new research: Money does matter. Every teacher and principal know that; now most economists agree.

Barnum begins:

Eric Hanushek, a leading education researcher, has spent his career arguing that spending more money on schools probably won’t make them better.

His latest research, though, suggests the opposite.

The paper, set to be published later this year, is a new review of dozens of studies. It finds that when schools get more money, students tend to score better on tests and stay in school longer, at least according to the majority of rigorous studies on the topic.

“They found pretty consistent positive effects of school funding,” said Adam Tyner, national research director at the Fordham Institute, a conservative education think tank. “The fact that Hanushek has found so many positive effects is especially significant because he’s associated with the idea that money doesn’t matter all that much to school performance.”

The findings seem like a remarkable turnabout compared to prior research from Hanushek, who had for four decades concluded in academic work that most studies show no clear relationship between spending and school performance. His work has been cited by the U.S. Supreme Court and pushed a generation of federal policymakers and advocates looking to fix America’s schools to focus not on money but ideas like teacher evaluation and school choice.

Despite his new findings, Hanushek’s own views have not changed. “Just putting more money into schools is unlikely to give us very good results,” he said in a recent interview. The focus, he insists, should be on spending money effectively, not necessarily spending more of it. Money might help, but it’s no guarantee.

Hanushek’s view matters because he remains influential, playing a dual role as a leading scholar and advocate — he continues to testify in court cases about school funding and to shape how many lawmakers think about improving schools…

Hanushek hammered home this point with the message discipline of a politician and the data chops of an economist. He wrote updated versions of the same academic paper again in 1986 and then in 1989, 1997, and 2003. He also made the case in numerous reports and articles, as well as in testimony in increasingly prevalent school funding lawsuits. In 2000, he became a fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank, where he remains based today.

Hanushek’s basic claim was that most studies of school “inputs” — like per-pupil spending, teacher salaries, and smaller class sizes — did not show a clear link between those resources and student outcomes. His 2003 paper showed that only 27% of the findings on spending were positively and significantly related to student performance. “One is left with the clear picture that input policies of the type typically pursued have little chance of being effective,” Hanushek wrote.

But new research has upended the debate.

Money does matter for Hanushek. His testimony does not come cheap:

The new research has not stopped Hanushek’s advocacy work outside of academia. He is still testifying on behalf of states in court cases about whether schools should get more money, including in ongoing lawsuits in Arizona and Maryland. (Recently, he’s been paid $450 an hour for his time in these cases. Jackson was paid $300 an hour as an expert on the other side of the Maryland case.) “More often than not the academic research indicates no significant improvements in student outcomes despite increased funding,” Hanushek wrote last year in an expert report for the Maryland case.

Please open the link and read the article.

It’s refreshing to see this in-depth, informed reporting of an important issue.