underlying the equity cases. To school equity devotees, such inequalities could only be fair if education beyond the high-minimum is the equivalent of frivolous extra frosting on an already well-frosted cake. For that to be true, of course, the high-minimum would need to be genuinely very high.
On that score, however, supporters of the school finance equity cases are likely to be skeptical about how capable or persistent courts in adequacy cases can or will be in demanding a genuinely high-minimum that delivers results. They fear that, in the end, wealthier school districts will succeed in making sure that their greater fiscal capacity may be used to purchase advantages that are well worth having. For equity supporters, therefore, the best hope still lies in forcing the rich and the poor into the same educational boat.
But this appraisal of what is both politically and judicially possible under the adequacy approach may be too pessimistic. A few more litigation successes like that in Kentucky, and most recently in New Jersey, could generate considerable optimism and courage among state supreme courts. As a result, state constitutional provisions with respect to education, despite their ambiguity, could become truly powerful sources of children's rights.
In the end, technical developments may play a key role in resolving this matter. If reliable and agreed-upon measures of what children should learn and have learned at various stages of their schooling could be developed, that would be an important first step. Although some people think we are well down that road already, one must be at least somewhat skeptical of that conclusion in view of the firestorm of opposition that has greeted President Clinton's proposals for national education testing.
In any event, having measurable standards is only a part of the job. It is not enough merely to aspire to teach all children to those standards. We also need the technology to bring that off. Money, perhaps a lot more money in some schools, may be necessary—or maybe not. And at the moment there is no consensus as to just how much more, if any, is needed in just which schools. But, this is a new area of research and perhaps before long some agreement will be reached on an approach that draws the best from the Guthrie and Rothstein, Augenblick, and Duncombe and Yinger approaches.
Even then, we note that those methodologies tend to be backward looking—seeking to identify what would it cost to enable all schools to achieve X result, given the way successful schools have been run to date. But many think that there are new, much more highly productive, educational solutions out there waiting to be discovered, or perhaps already discovered and just waiting to be identified. One thing these solutions tend to have in common is a belief that the focus of reform should be at the school level.
For example, several prominent educational innovators like Robert Slavin, Henry Levin, Theodore Sizer, James Comer, and Chris Whittle (and his Edison