Are School Reopening Decisions Related to Funding? Evidence from Over 12,000 Districts During the COVID-19 Pandemic

22 Pages Posted: 10 Mar 2021 Last revised: 27 Sep 2021

See all articles by Corey DeAngelis

Corey DeAngelis

American Federation for Children; Cato Institute; Reason Foundation

Christos Makridis

Stanford University; Columbia University - Columbia Business School; Arizona State University (ASU); Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

Date Written: March 8, 2021

Abstract

In theory, public school districts with more funding might be more likely to reopen in person if resources are a primary driver of their reopening decisions during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, it is also possible that these decisions are influenced by other factors including political partisanship, incentive structures, and special interests. Using data on over 12,000 school districts in the United States, we quantify the relationship between public school revenues and expenditures per student and their reopening decisions in Fall 2020. Our preferred statistical specifications, which compare school districts in the same county, suggest that there is no relationship between funding and the decision to make classes fully remote. If anything, we find a positive relationship when we compare districts in the same state, suggesting that the schools that went fully remote were financially better off than their in-person counterparts in the same state. These results are consistent across various analytic techniques and specifications controlling for district size and a rich set of county-level demographics including political partisanship, Covid-19 risk, household income, educational attainment, and the race and age distributions. We also find that increases in the share of remote school districts in a state are associated with increases in the growth of counselors and social workers, relative to 2019, even after controlling for the overall employment decline in the state. In sum, our results not only find no evidence that additional stimulus funding for K-12 public schools is necessary or sufficient for them to reopen in person, but also that there are unintended consequences of opening remotely on child mental health.

Keywords: school reopening, school closures, COVID-19, school funding, economics of education

JEL Classification: I28, I20

Suggested Citation

DeAngelis, Corey and Makridis, Christos, Are School Reopening Decisions Related to Funding? Evidence from Over 12,000 Districts During the COVID-19 Pandemic (March 8, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3799694 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3799694

Corey DeAngelis (Contact Author)

American Federation for Children ( email )

1020 19th St NW
Washington, DC 20036
United States

Cato Institute ( email )

1000 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.
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Reason Foundation ( email )

1747 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington, DC 20009
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Christos Makridis

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Columbia University - Columbia Business School ( email )

3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States

Arizona State University (ASU) ( email )

Farmer Building 440G PO Box 872011
Tempe, AZ 85287
United States

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) ( email )

810 Vermont Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20420
United States

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