Notice, however, that although educational adequacy is more about outputs than inputs, nevertheless, in the minds of many of its supporters, the achievement of adequacy does not appear to be ultimately judged by actual educational outcomes. It is still an opportunity concept, and as such, compliance with the adequacy requirement is ultimately still a matter of inputs, albeit now more broadly conceived. In other words, at the level of the moral claim, educational adequacy seems to be about what fairly ought to be provided, leaving it in the end to the student to take advantage of that offering.

But if it is neither a matter of comparing inputs with those provided to other pupils nor a matter of everyone's actual outcomes, then how does one decide what inputs an adequate education requires? Would assuring an adequate education for all students cost more than is now spent on elementary and secondary public education, or less? Would it require a great deal more redistribution of money from those living in high-wealth districts than has been required by the equity cases, or less? Just how much extra is to be provided for special needs students and high-cost areas? There are no self-evident answers to these questions.

As we see it, what is "adequate" will come down to a matter of judgment, probably informed by expertise. (There is also an analogy that can be made here to the world of special education, in which each disabled child is now legally guaranteed an "appropriate" education, which, in practice, has tended to amount to what educational experts say will suffice to meet that child's special needs.) Moreover, it seems that in making the judgment about what is fairly required by the educational adequacy requirement, one would want to take into account what outcomes can reasonably be expected from which inputs, even if actually achieving certain outcomes is not required. Indeed, if there are grossly deficient outcomes at present, this may be taken as evidence of inadequate inputs. In these respects, however, the distinction between adequacy as an outcome standard and an input standard becomes blurred.

In any event, because the comparison to be made is with an absolute standard and not in relation to others, most adequacy theorists appear to agree that school districts that can afford to, and choose to do so, ought to be free to offer more than the high-minimum. In this respect as well "adequacy" differs from "equity."

Adequacy as a Legal Requirement?

Do courts have a role to play in trying to achieve educational "adequacy" for all pupils? For the moment the answer is decidedly "Yes." Since 1989 especially, successful state court school finance cases seem to be moving strongly in this very direction (Enrich, 1995).

As a matter of legal doctrine, we hear state courts increasingly saying to their legislatures that the education clause of their state constitution gives the state responsibility for education that it may not simply pass on to local school districts.



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