09/11/2014 06:03 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Does High Per-Pupil Spending Spell Academic Success?

In March, Reboot Illinois took a look at which school districts in Illinois spend the most per student. Is it academically worthwhile to spend a lot of money on each student?

Like so much else in education policy, the answer is a firm, "Maybe." Our results showed that poverty among students is the greatest indicator of likely academic achievement. The results are a mixed bag, though they show that the percentage of low-income students generally trumps spending-per-pupil as an indicator of academic achievement.

Among grade school districts, south suburban Ford Heights School District 169 had the second-highest per-pupil spending in the state, yet its ISAT scores were the worst among the group measured here. However, at 92.4 percent, Ford Heights had by far the highest percentage of low-income students of any district in this group.

But that's not always the case, and it doesn't explain everything. What other factors can contribute to academic achievement other than spending? Are there high schools in Illinois that don't spend as much on their students but whose pupils still have high test scores?

Questions on school spending are contentious in Illinois politics. The question of whether or not raising the Illinois minimum wage has also inserted itself into the statewide conversation and the governor's race. Beyond the politics, what would actually happen if the minimum wage were raised? According to the Congressional Budget Office, some pros of raising the minimum wage include increasing working families' incomes and people living below the poverty line making more money. The CBO says some cons could include eliminating some jobs for low-wage workers and reduced income for business-owners. See more details of these potential outcomes at Reboot Illinois.