School finance reform in Vermont: Essays evaluating equity, achievement, and capitalization under Vermont's Equal Education Opportunity Act
This dissertation consists of three papers exploring the impacts of Vermont's Equal Education Opportunity Act, Act 60, on equity, student achievement, and property values.
The first paper evaluates the equity implications of Vermont's Act 60. Using data on per-pupil spending at the town level, it appears that Act 60 did equalize resources across pupils. Further, the relationship between per-pupil spending and a town's income as well as the relationship between per-pupil spending and property wealth were reduced. However, the magnitude of the reduction is diminished when private donations, induced by the high tax price many towns faced under Act 60, are included.
The second paper explores the impacts of spending changes under Act 60 on student achievement. Under Act 60, per-pupil resources changed from year-to-year for many Vermont towns. This paper asks whether these changes in resources were associated with changes in student performance as measured by pass rates on standardized tests. Data on spending and test score pass rates are available annually from 1999 through 2004. Using these data, fixed effects and instrumental variables estimation techniques are employed. Changes in town spending under Vermont's Act 60 appear to have had a positive impact on 4th grade math pass rates. However, these spending changes did not significantly impact 4th grade writing or reading or 2nd grade reading pass rates. There is suggestive, but inconclusive, evidence that additional resources were more effective at increasing test score pass rates in initially low spending schools. There is not, however, any evidence that money was more effective in schools that were initially low achieving.
The final paper examines how aggregate property values in the state of Vermont responded to changes in spending, tax rates, and student achievement under Act 60. In contrast to much of the literature, this study finds no evidence that property values in Vermont respond to changes in test score pass rates. Aggregate property values, however, do respond negatively to changes in tax rates. The relationship between aggregate property values and school spending proves most interesting. Spending only appears to be positively related to aggregate property values in towns that choose to rely on private donations to supplement school spending provided under the state's school finance system. This could be taken as evidence that additional school spending is only valued in districts that are constrained from spending at the desired level under Act 60 and not by all communities in the state.
0511: Economic theory