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Does Money Matter in Education?

BOULDER, CO (June 16, 2016) – Underinvestment in schools has characterized Western countries since the beginning of public education and is the result of political decision-making. Despite polls showing public support for schools, the argument that money doesn’t matter has, nevertheless, always found an audience.

In a brief released today, Does Money Matter, William Mathis considers the evidence used to support the claim that there is no systemic relation between spending and school quality.

Mathis notes that a strong school finance litigation push in the 1990s and new research helped create a policy consensus that money does matter. Thus the debate shifted to questions of how much money is needed and where best to spend it. Research strongly suggested that money should be directed toward: achieving lower student-teacher ratios; increasing teacher salaries; and longer school years. These reforms promoted the largest gains for children living in poverty and were strong enough to eliminate most of the adult outcome gaps between those raised in poor and non-poor families.

Mathis concludes that the evidence is clear, money does matter, especially for children in poverty, and that adequate and equitable distributions of school financial resources are a “necessary underlying condition for maintaining democracy, improving overall school quality and outcomes.”

Dr. Mathis is Managing Director of the National Education Policy Center, housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education. This brief is the one in a series of concise publications, Research-Based Options for Education Policymaking, that takes up a number of important policy issues and identifies policies supported by research. Each section focuses on a different issue, and its recommendations to policymakers are based on the latest scholarship.

Find William Mathis’s brief on the NEPC website at:

This policy brief was made possible in part by the support of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice ( 

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: