definitions can be general while the ex post ones must be specific in order to give exact guidance to empirical work.12 One common ex post conceptualization of equal opportunity assesses whether low-income and high-income pupils (or other groups) have the same access to the education system, in terms of inputs (e.g., dollars of expenditures), processes (e.g., advanced placement classes), or outputs (e.g., high achievement levels). There is some evidence that school finance equity concerns regarding equal opportunity are moving farther along the production process continuum, with output analyses appearing with greater frequency.
Another explicitly ex post equal opportunity equity definition in school finance focuses on the relationship between education available to students and the property wealth (or fiscal capacity) of their school district. This idea is so prominent in earlier court cases and legislation that it has a name of its own—wealth (or fiscal) neutrality. In Chapter 2 of this volume, Minorini and Sugarman summarize equity litigation using the wealth neutrality concept.
Part of the ambiguity in the concept of equal opportunity is the intermingling of educational and legal concepts within the courts. Equal educational opportunity is an educational concept, while the similar idea of equal protection is a legal concept that extends to a wide array of public services. It is possible that efforts to move the legal concepts of equal protection, and now adequacy, further into educational outcomes and processes (as opposed to just inputs) will encourage the courts to address, with more specificity, the types of curriculum, program, teacher quality, or technology that constitute ''equal educational opportunity" or "an adequate education." 13
The equal opportunity concept is much broader in application to education than in school finance issues per se. School finance equity has stressed one particular formulation of equal opportunity—wealth neutrality—which we explore more fully in the next section of the chapter. Nevertheless, some of the more general thinking about equal opportunity in education has been influential in the school finance area. One court case and three early books have been particularly influential. Brown v. Board of Education (1954) riveted the nation's attention to inequality in educational opportunity, focusing on inequalities due to differences in racial composition of schools. Although the Supreme Court did not tie its findings in the Brown case to financing of schools, the subsequent remedies to the findings involved additional financial resources, which quickly affected school finance. Arthur Wise (1968) and more recently Peter Enrich (1995) cite the theme of race in the Brown decision as one of three particular themes in court cases that are important historically to the evolution of legal ideas about school finance equity.14
Equality of Educational Opportunity (Coleman et al., 1966), written for the U.S. Office of Education to fulfill a legislative mandate of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, surveyed principals and teachers about students and schools in an effort to understand variations in school resources as well as their effects on student