The Effect of State Education Finance Reform on Total Local Resources
Both the federal government and the states use intergovernmental grants to try to change the composition of local spending across different programs, as well as the distribution of resources across localities. Many states are now under court-order to use state education grants to reduce local disparities in education spending. While a substantial body of literature suggests that these court orders increase the level and progressivity of state education spending, there is little evidence on their broader effects on the total resources available not just for schools in low income districts, but for other programs across all localities. We find that states finance the required increase in education spending in part by reducing their aid to localities for other programs, particularly for wealthier districts. Thus, while court-ordered school finance
equalizations do increase total state aid to localities for education, they do so at the expense of drawing state intergovernmental aid away from programs like public welfare, health, hospitals, and general services. These findings provide insight into the effectiveness of using earmarked funds to achieve redistribution.