Essays on School Choice, Information, and Textbook Funding
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The second chapter examines the impact of information about school quality on student enrollment. I use a regression discontinuity design to estimate the effects of a school choice program in California that provides families with signals of low school quality. I find that signals of low quality decrease school enrollment by 14.3% relative to enrollment in the previous year and 23.6% over two years. Despite the large changes in enrollment, student demographics are not affected. Additionally, the effects of school-quality signals are largest when families have alternative school choices that are nearby. I also find some evidence that student achievement in elementary schools declines, although I cannot separately identify the degree to which this is caused by changes in student composition. The third chapter examines the effect of textbook funding on student performance. Evidence on the effects of school resources on student achievement is mixed, but quasi-experimental methods suggest that interventions like class size reductions improve student achievement. This is the first study to consider the effect of textbook funding on student achievement by using a quasi-experimental setting in the U.S. I focus on a large class action lawsuit in California that provided a one-time payment of $96.90 per student for textbooks if schools fell below a threshold of academic performance in the previous year. Exploiting this variation with a regression discontinuity design, I find that textbook funding has significant positive effects on student achievement. The low cost of textbooks relative to class size reduction implies that these effects have a very high benefit-per-dollar.