be learning more than ever; but as judged by another set, these children are still below average. Whatever the conclusion one draws about the improved learning that Kentucky schoolchildren have experienced as a result of the reforms, it seems clear that opportunities to achieve learning at higher levels are being offered in areas of the state and to schoolchildren who prior to the reforms were not receiving such opportunities.
In Kentucky, the court's pronouncement on educational adequacy at least led directly and promptly to substantial reform. The political response has been far less satisfactory, however, in some other states. In Wyoming, for example, the response to the Wyoming Supreme Court's "adequacy" decision initially got off on the wrong foot. The legislature undertook a serious examination of its obligations, and Guthrie and Rothstein were brought in to apply their approach to determining the cost of an "adequate" education (described above) to Wyoming's situation. Drawing in substantial respects on those expert recommendations, a legislative package was put together that was passed largely as proposed in July 1997. However, although this new school funding plan purportedly met the court's mandates, the governor vetoed several of its key provisions.
In the spring of 1998, the legislative and executive branches of government in Wyoming finally came together and passed a reform that they believe will hold up against judicial scrutiny. The new law increases the state education budget by approximately 10 percent, pumping a new $76.5 million into the system. In addition to the finance reforms, the law also establishes a statewide student assessment system to measure achievement progress in years to come. Based on a "rational" determination of what educational services are needed to provide students with adequate educational opportunities, this new funding scheme stands a fair chance of being upheld should it again be challenged in court.
The story is much more disheartening in Alabama. The judicial order in that state's adequacy case required the legislature to implement specific reforms in the following areas: (1) student performance standards; (2) educator performance standards; (3) accountability; (4) school based management; (5) staff development, teacher compensation, and adequate staff and support services; (6) non-school barriers to learning; (7) early childhood education; (8) infrastructure; (9) technology; and (10) special education. Because the governor at the time supported education reforms, the initial finding of liability by the trial court was not appealed.
Legislation that substantially mirrored the court's remedial order was introduced in 1994 but failed to pass. Indeed, a new governor was elected who took the attitude that no trial judge was going to tell him how to run the state education system. Furthermore, the trial judge who issued the original remedy order no longer presides over the case. The upshot is that the legislature has failed to implement any meaningful reform responding to the court's orders.
Consequently, in 1996 the parties returned to court, but not to argue over the trial court's liability finding. Rather, the state defendants asked the Alabama