Author ORCID Identifier

Date of Award

Fall 12-12-2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Public Management and Policy

First Advisor

Dr. Ross Rubenstein

Second Advisor

Dr. W. Bartley Hildreth

Third Advisor

Dr. Gregory B. Lewis

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Tim R. Sass


The disparity in resources across schools within a large school district and school district budgets that may be larger than residents’ preferences are important topics to improve school finance. This dissertation explores two alternative budgeting systems to examine whether school districts reflect students’ educational needs and residents’ budget preferences in their resource allocation.

Chapter 1 estimates the causal effects of New York City (NYC)’s Weighted Student Funding (WSF) budgeting reform on under-funded schools’ spending patterns, teacher qualifications, and academic achievement. Although large school districts have implemented the WSF systems devised to allocate additional money to schools with educationally high-need students, the literature has not accumulated sufficient causal evidence of these new system’s effectiveness. This study fills that gap by examining New York City’s Fair Student Funding (FSF) reform, a version of WSF that has been implemented since 2008. Using difference-in-differences and event study methods, I find that the reform led to significant increases in per-pupil spending and teacher qualifications in under-funded schools relative to over-funded schools; however, the resource effects did not reduce the gaps in academic performance between the two types of schools. Further evidence shows that the spending and teacher resource effects weakened or disappeared among the high-need schools that English Language Learners (ELL) and Free or Reduced-price Lunch program (FRL) students attend predominantly. In contrast, other evidence shows that the reform improves student achievement overall significantly compared to non-NYC New York State (NYS) schools. The chapter discusses the reform’s potential and limitations from the evidence and suggests policy implications to enhance its effectiveness.

Chapter 2 investigates the annual budget referenda in New York State (NYS) school districts. Although theories and evidence suggest that adopting a budget referendum has budget constraint effects, little is known about reciprocal responses between voting outcomes and districts’ budgets over time. Using fixed effects panel data regression and generalized method of moments, I find that residents appear to turn out to vote against increases in budgets and tax levies that districts propose. Thereafter, the districts decrease their following year’s budgets. These patterns overall are stronger in racially/ethnically heterogenous districts and those with less local revenue capacity. However, the patterns diminished after the state’s tax cap policy was adopted in 2012. The evidence suggests that the annual voting process could be an institutional option to maintain the preferred level of budgets and tax levies between the preferences of citizens and districts, particularly among racially/ethnically diverse and less affluent communities.