Financing a constitutional education: Views from the bench

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In Helping Children Left Behind: State Aid and the Pursuit of Educational Equity


MIT Press



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In the United States, education reformers have long been troubled by the differences in money and resources available to different school districts and by the resulting differences in the educational opportunities that these districts can offer their students. These disparities are due, at least in part, to the fact that school districts in many states rely on local property tax revenues for a significant portion of their budgets and that local districts often vary dramatically in property wealth per pupil. State aid systems, even when they are designed to equalize the resources available to different school districts, rarely do so completely. Sometimes (or in some part), state aid systems may exacerbate the inequalities.

In response, reformers in many states have brought suits, arguing that, because of these disparities, property tax-based school funding systems violate federal and state constitutions. Over forty states have now faced court challenges to their school funding systems, and plaintiffs have prevailed (in full or in part and at some level of court) in more than half.1 And there is convincing evidence that the distribution of school spending is more equal in states that have undergone judicially mandated reforms (Murray, Evans, and Schwab 1998; Evans, Murray, and Schwab 1997).

Courts and court interpretations of what the U.S. Constitution and state constitutions require have thus played an important role in the development of school finance systems. The possibility, if not the reality, of a court challenge must be considered in designing a state aid system. This chapter provides an overview of school finance reform suits.2


Educational equalization -- Law and legislation; Education -- Finance; Educational change; Federal aid to education


Disability and Equity in Education | Education | Education Policy | Other Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration



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