An analysis of expenditure patterns in Texas public school districts before and after the 1984 school finance reform



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Texas Tech University


The research agenda in school finance has moved from equity concerns to concerns about how to finance education to improve its quality. At issue again are questions of which resources, if any, affect learning and how should schools and school personnel be held accountable for the results of schooling. A new research agenda begins with the observation that the states have increased their levels of funding for schools beginning about 1984. There is scant evidence of how that new money has been spent.

The purpose of this study was to examine what the differences in per pupil expenditures eimong Texas public schools mean in terms of the resources provided to students. Specifically, the focus concentrated on a comparison of expenditure patterns of Texas school districts categorized by local wealth before and after the 1984 school finance reform legislation. This study was restricted to the data collected for the following school years: 1983-84, 1984-85, and 1989-90.

To study how districts with different wealth levels chose to spend their available funds, the 1,052 public school districts in Texas were grouped according to their assessed valuation: rich, middle, and poor. These three types of districts were compared by determining their expenditures or spending levels by object as specified by Bulletin 679 Financial Accounting Manual required for use by Texas school districts.

Results of this study indicated that the school districts by 1989-90 had spent more per student for purchased and contracted services and supplies and materials than they had before House Bill 72 became a reality. Payroll costs continued to be the largest expenditure object area. Capital outlay costs became a smaller part of the expenditures. Other operating costs and debt service expenditures continued to take up a smaller proportion of the total expenditures. Further analysis indicated that the middle school districts spend more per student than the rich and poor school districts in the object areas of purchased and contracted services, supplies and materials, other operating expenses, and debt service. The poor school districts expended more of their monies in payroll costs, while the rich school districts lead in spending in the capital outlay object area.



School budgets -- Texas, Education -- Texas -- Finance, Educational change -- Texas