Queensbury, a small town in the Adirondacks, spends less money on each student than any other public school district in the state. Bridgehampton, a resort town in Long Island, spends six times as much. But when it comes to statewide test scores, it's hard to tell the difference between the two.
In Queensbury, which spent $8,553 per student in the 2004–05 school year, more than 80% of fourth-graders passed state reading exams that same year and more than 90% passed the math tests. The same is true of Bridgehampton, which spends $51,828 on each student, according to a July 2005 state report to the governor and the legislature.
Demographically speaking, we don't know if we have an apples-to-apples comparison. But, if anything, it seems like the kids from swanky Bridgehampton would have the advantage there.
Back to the bigger question: Does money matter?
"What we've found over time is that money is neither necessary nor sufficient to ensure high performance," a senior economist at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, Eric Hanushek, said. He is the editor of "Courting Failure," a book coming out Monday ...
"Some schools spend a lot and get good performance and some spend a lot and get bad performance," he said. "If you go ahead and try to adjust for what the kids look like. ... It doesn't help the picture, you get the same picture."
An analyst at the Manhattan Institute, Sol Stern, who is a contributor to "Courting Failure," says that even as spending per pupil doubled in New York City over the past decade, performance hasn't improved.
"If you watch what happened in New York City education budgets, you'll see that pupil spending went up," he said. "And eighth grade reading scores are as flat as they ever were."