groups, as well as addressing variations in district characteristics such as regional cost differences, size, or enrollment change.

In the current political atmosphere, especially with the public demanding more accountability from its government, it is increasingly difficult politically to sell school finance reform on the equity principle alone. In many cases it has become necessary, though not sufficient, to have an adequacy argument and to explain what the increased or redistributed money will buy. In addition, compelling evidence about the types and levels of investments that are most likely to improve student outcomes can generate public support for school finance reform.



For a vivid description of the current system's "savage inequalities" that create vastly different opportunities for different children, see Kozol, 1991.


Because the authors both reside in New Jersey, the chapter draws heavily on this state's example throughout.


However, this was the end result of a series of reforms passed in California. California's highest court required equity in per-pupil spending in its Serrano v. Priest case and the legislature passed a remedy consistent with this decision. Not long after that legislation, California voters passed Proposition 13, limiting taxation. The result in California has been a significant increase in school finance equity but a decline in total resources available to education as compared to the national average and a corresponding drop from near the top to near the bottom in the national rankings of many educational indicators.


Two state constitutions do not require the legislature to establish free public schools. The Mississippi Constitution simply requires the legislature to establish schools. Under the Alabama Constitution, the state must promote education but theoretically would not be constitutionally required to establish public schools if it did not have adequate resources. In the other 48 states, the constitution requires, at a bare minimum, that the legislature establish a system of free public schools. Fourteen state constitutions require only this minimum standard while 19 state constitutions apply a minimum quality standard to the state system of schools such as requiring that they be "thorough and efficient." Eight states have stronger and more specific quality requirements in their constitutions. The remaining seven states have the strongest category of education clause in their state constitutions, which establish education as the most important duty of the state. See McUsic, 1991.


Based on the Education Commission of the States count of legislated school finance reforms between 1971 and 1981 (Fuhrman, 1982:53).


The expected rate of diffusion of state preserve policies (not instigated by federal action), as determined by a review of studies of diffusion of innovation, is about 16 years for the first 25 percent and 24 years for the first 50

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