Panel Paper: How Much Does It Cost to Provide an Adequate Educational Opportunity to All Students in California?

Thursday, November 8, 2018
Tyler - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Jesse Levin, Iliana Brodziak de los Reyes, Drew Atchison, Karen Manship, Melissa Arellanes and Lynn Hu, American Institutes for Research

The need for costing-out studies is clear given the clauses found in virtually all state constitutions that dictate that the state has a responsibility to provide an education that is considered adequate, sufficient or some other term that represents a level that allows all students an opportunity to achieve the outcomes expected of the public education system. If states are to follow through on this obligation then it is necessary to understand both the amount of effort involved in terms the public funding required to offer educational sufficiency and how to appropriately distribute this funding. More formally stated, the main objectives of educational costing-out studies are to answer what have been referred to as the two fundamental questions of educational adequacy (Chambers & Levin, 2009):

  • What does it cost to enable a public school system to provide all students with an adequate education?
  • How can state school finance systems allocate their resources equitably, such that all students are afforded an adequate education regardless of their need or circumstance?

The proposed presentation will describe the results of a costing-out study for California that address the two fundamental questions put forth above. The study employed a Professional Judgement approach, which involved organizing panels of expert educators to develop efficient resource specifications necessary to provide students in a variety of school settings (i.e., varying with respect to grade range, student needs, and enrollment size) an opportunity to meet outcomes defined in the state’s accountability system. The resource specifications were then translated into cost figures using a Resource Cost Model (RCM), which calculates costs based upon an “ingredients” approach (Levin, 2017). The data is then used to model the adequate cost for all California public K-12 schools and districts.

At the heart of the study is an analysis of adequate cost versus actual spending across California districts. Main findings will be presented that show the numbers of districts with predicted adequate cost that is above and below their actual spending, as well as the magnitude to which district spending is more or less than deemed necessary to provide an adequate education. Moreover, the results presented will show how the difference between adequate cost and actual spending vary according to district locale (e.g., urban versus rural), poverty level, and student achievement. In addition, we will present the results of a comparative analysis between the funding model suggested by our costing-out results and the Local Control Funding Formula currently used by the state. Finally, the presentation will discuss the policy implications of the findings including the necessary bottom-line increase in funding to cover the cost of providing educational adequacy statewide and issues to be considered when phasing in such an increase in funding.


Chambers, J. & Levin, J. (2009). Determining the Cost of Providing an Adequate Education for All Students. Washington, DC: National Education Association.

Levin, H., McEwan, P., Belfield, C., Bowden, B. & Shand, R. (2017). Economic Evaluation in Education: Cost-Effectiveness and Benefit-Cost Analysis. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Full Paper: