It is no secret that some school districts spend their money better than others. One can easily find groups of districts with the same student demographics and with the same expenditure levels producing very different levels of student achievement. Put another way, some (many?) districts are spending more than they need to spend, based on what other districts show is possible. Economists would summarize this as indicating the existence of considerable inefficiency in the operation of schools. But does this excess spending imply that we can simply cut back on spending without harming students?
This surely is a key question that will come up this spring in statehouses across the nation as they face another tough budget year. District officials, if they are wise, will not just rely on the same old belt-tightening maneuvers. Indeed, perhaps the only viable option is seriously addressing policies toward educator salaries.
Improving outcomes—either with fewer or more resources—requires significant change. It will be virtually impossible to get such change without active state policies that push for the alignment of salary budgets with classroom performance.