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Brian T. Hamel

Brian T. Hamel.
Locally-elected school boards have wide discretion over allocating money among the schools in their district, yet we know relatively little about how they decide “which schools get what.” I argue that electoral incentives are one factor that can influence the distribution of resources: board members will direct spending toward schools located in neighborhoods of their district where spending will be most electorally beneficial in the next election. 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 primarily to schools in competitive and moderately supportive neighborhoods, especially when running in an on-cycle election where parents make-up a larger share of the electorate and where student performance affects election outcomes. By comparison, schools in overwhelmingly opposed and supportive areas are excluded. These results suggest that local democratic control of school boards can hinder educational equality.

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