If there’s one lesson we can take from the current debate about updating the Commonwealth’s public education funding formula, it’s the importance of understanding history. For over a decade, as memories of the success of Massachusetts’ 1993 Education Reform Act have receded, state policy makers have increasingly made decisions that reveal lack of awareness of what made it so successful. We must stem that tide if we are to get state education aid right.

The centerpiece the Education Reform Act was, in the words of co-author Tom Birmingham, that the Commonwealth would make “a massive infusion of state dollars into our public schools, and in return… demand high standards… and accountability from all.”

It worked.

Beginning in 1993, state SAT scores rose for 13 consecutive years. By 2005, Massachusetts students became the first to score best in the nation in all four major National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) categories (fourth- and eighth-grade reading and math).

While American students as a whole lag their international peers, Massachusetts students were competitive with their counterparts in high-performing Asian countries on international tests in 2007 and 2011. In 2007, Bay State eighth graders even tied for first place internationally in science.

But over the last decade, Massachusetts has retreated from the reforms that drove student achievement. The Commonwealth has adopted weaker academic standards in English, math, science and history; embraced a watered-down MCAS 2.0; eliminated an independent district accountability agency; and seen legislative support for successful charter public schools erode.

Predictably, SAT and MCAS scores have declined, and Massachusetts is among a minority of states in which NAEP scores fell between 2011 and 2017.

We’re in desperate need of a history refresher course on the success of combining new money with reform.

Massachusetts ranks eighth among the states and Washington, D.C. in overall per-pupil funding. The Commonwealth is fourth in per-pupil funding from local sources and 11th in state support.

Additional education money should be focused on low-income school districts. Municipalities with large property tax bases such as Cambridge, Weston, Dover, and Concord spend much of that revenue on schools. In fiscal 2018, Cambridge spent $25,929 per pupil in local funds to supplement the relatively meager $1,904 per pupil it received in state aid.

Meanwhile, poorer cities like Lawrence, New Bedford, Brockton, and Springfield provide less than $3,000 per pupil in local funding. They receive much more state aid, in the range of $10,000 per pupil. But relatively meager tax resources translate to far lower expenditures than in high-income communities, with total per-pupil spending in the range of $14,000 to $15,800.

More funding should be tied to structural reforms that increase the likelihood that the money yields better outcomes. Since failing school districts have been unable to achieve significant improvements without outside intervention, the state should appoint local school committee members proportional to its net school spending contributions. In districts where the state provides most of the money, the commissioner of elementary and secondary education would appoint a majority of the school committee members to ensure a focus on improvement and accountability.

We should also invest in effective urban school models. That means funding successful models like regional vocational-technical high schools and METCO, which allows inner-city students in Boston and Springfield to attend suburban schools.

State leaders should fund charter public school facilities in a way that more closely approximates school district facilities funding. They should also fully fund reimbursements to districts whose students choose to attend charters to reduce unnecessary district-charter tensions.

As lawmakers address funding gaps, they should keep in mind the enormous parallel funding challenges they face. For example, the Commonwealth is responsible for the unfunded liability of the Massachusetts and Boston Teachers Retirement Systems. Taken together, these systems account for nearly two thirds of the state’s overall $41.7 billion unfunded pension liability. Unfunded liability for the two systems increase at an annualized rate of nearly 12.5 percent between 2000 and 2018.

Reversing recent declines in Massachusetts public schools performance will require applying lessons learned over the past 25 years. That means focusing additional money on low-income school districts, and tying the money to reforms to make it more likely that increased investment yields improved student achievement.

Gregory Sullivan research director and Charles Chieppo is a senior fellow at Pioneer Institute, a Boston-based think tank.