Date of Degree
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
This dissertation consists of three chapters. The first chapter addresses the role of housing market dynamics in explaining the choice of public education finance systems at the state level. The second chapter assesses the effects of increased levels of state involvement in public education finance on total amount of resources for public schools by taking into account the differences in state aid formulae. The third chapter examines the relationship between spending per pupil in public schools and demographic characteristics of the population.
In the first chapter, I analyze the welfare effects of different public education finance systems. Specifically, I show that the public education finance system that decreases intrastate spending inequality by setting a minimum spending per pupil, Foundation, would be chosen over the system that sets a guaranteed tax base for every district, Power-Equalizing, if they were subject to a majority voting. The main mechanism behind this is that higher property tax rates under a Power-Equalizing system compared to a Foundation system lead to lower housing wealth for the majority in the former. The model suggests that a high preference for education in the utility function, lower mean income in a state, and lower income inequality in a state results in a Foundation system being chosen by a majority. Finally, I provide suggestive evidence supporting these theoretical results.
In the second chapter, I quantitatively address the effects of increased levels of state involvement in public education finance in the U.S.. By using district level data on K-12 public education finance, income and demographic composition in 2008, I conclude that state governments redistribute from wealthier districts to poorer districts. Local authorities, however, respond to the centralization of public education finance systems by decreasing their contributions. Thus, every dollar increase in state aid increases total expenditures by less than one dollar. Using the categorization of Jackson et al. (2014), I argue that the effect of state funds on total expenditures is different for different state aid formula types. In states with standard equalization plans and local effort equalization plans, a dollar increase in state aid increases total expenditures by as little as 35 cents. In states with minimum foundation plans, in contrast, a dollar increase in state aid increases total expenditures by as much as 70 to 83 cents.
In the third chapter, I explore the underlying demographic factors that leads into a stronger preference for public education. Previous studies suggest that lower share of elderly, higher share of school age children, and higher share of college graduates in the population result in a higher level of spending per pupil in public schools. However, the existing literature does not take into account the differences in state aid formulae. This is important given that these formulae differ and they have direct effects on levels and dispersion of spending in the districts. My analysis suggests that the type of state aid formula affects the relationship between demographic characteristics and spending per pupil in public schools. Specifically, the effects of these three variables on public education expenditures are bigger in the states with Minimum Foundation plans compared to Equalization and Local Equalization plans. This is a direct result of the latter two state aid formulae being more centralized compared to Minimum Equalization plans. While they control for spending inequality at a higher degree, public education finance system in the state becomes more centralized which leads into a weaker relationship between each of these demographic variables and spending levels in the districts. These results are also seem to be robust to the type of the public education finance reform of the state.
This dissertation is an extensive analysis of the public education finance system in the U.S.. The first chapter presents a theoretical model that helps us to compare two of the most commonly used state-level public education finance systems. By taking into account of the differences in housing market conditions between two systems, it concludes that the states that experience lower income growth and income inequality growth are more likely to choose a finance systems that sets a minimum spending per pupil in the state over the second system. And these states are expected to experience higher property values if such a switch occurs.
The second chapter is a quantitative analysis of the effect of increased control of state governments in public education finance. By using data from 2008 on income, housing wealth, demographics, and finance of school districts, it concludes that higher state involvement in public education finance has a negative effect on total expenditure per pupil. In addition, this effect is different for different public education finance systems. Specifically, the state-aid formulae that controls for the inequality by setting a minimum level has the smallest negative effect on total expenditure among all the other systems.
The third chapter explores the relationship between demographics and higher spending in public schools. By using the same data set with the previous chapter, it concludes that the effects of demographics on total expenditures are of different magnitudes for different public education finance systems.
Copyright 2015 Cenk Cetin