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Brian T. Hamel

Brian T. Hamel.
Education spending has been shown to increase student achievement and break the cycle of poverty. I argue, however, that local school board members in the U.S. are electorally incentivized to invest resources in some schools and students more than others. Specifically, I argue that school spending can boost vote shares for incumbent school board members, and that school board members will allocate resources strategically, prioritizing schools located in neighborhoods of their district where spending will maximize their vote share. I test this argument using data from a discretionary school modernization program in the Los Angeles Unified School District, and find that board members distribute resources to schools in competitive and moderately supportive neighborhoods while excluding schools in overwhelmingly opposed and supportive areas. The results suggest that local democratic control of school boards can hinder education equality.

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