students have access to educational resources and opportunities adequate to achieve desired educational outcomes (Underwood, 1995; Heise, 1995; Clune, 1993). In the education policy context, the shift has led to efforts to define what educational outcomes all students should attain and what resources are necessary to permit all students to achieve those outcomes (Clune, 1993).
In this chapter we start by going back to the early litigation efforts to eliminate racial segregation in public education because we believe that this history sheds interesting light on the school finance litigation that was to follow. We then turn to the legal theories underlying the ultimately unsuccessful legal challenges to school finance inequalities that were brought under the federal constitution. After explaining how that failure turned into something of a success in cases brought in state courts under state constitutions, we explore various reasons why activists and analysts in the mid and late 1980s nonetheless began to look for a new legal approach—one rooted not so much in comparing the poor education some children obtain with others, but rather in comparing the inadequate education many children receive as judged by some absolute standard. We then trace the rapid success of the new adequacy theory in courts, followed by a more sobering look at the mixed success of this approach in obtaining legislative compliance with judicial decrees. We close with an appraisal of the education adequacy movement to date and its prospects for the future.
In the era before the U.S. Supreme Court decided Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), black claimants successfully attacked several state educational arrangements as constitutionally inadequate. In those earlier years, the so-called ''separate but equal" standard, which had been established by Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896), applied to race-based treatment; this meant that blacks could be forced to accept separate treatment by the government, so long as it was equal treatment. The litigation strategy in the first half of the twentieth century was to show that the segregated schooling provided for blacks was inferior to what was provided for whites and hence in violation of the "equal protection of the law" requirement of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
These early race discrimination cases began with claims that black schools simply did not parallel the white institutions. In Cummings v. Board of Education, 175 U.S. 528 (1899), the plaintiffs' objection was that the district had ceased operation of the black high school but continued to support high school education for white students. (For reasons that seem quite unconvincing 100 years later, the Court found in favor of the school district.) In Missouri ex rel Gaines v. Canada, 305 U.S. 337 (1938), the complaint was that Missouri had no black law school but had a law school for whites. The Court ruled that the state's offer to pay the