this question. We anticipate that the system will be deemed in compliance when the legislature, in good faith and with steadfast purpose, has enacted a scheme designed to provide pupils with a fair opportunity to succeed. Yet, the sort of scheme that will pass this test remains rather elusive. Must it have certain minimum school finance and spending fairness features, and if so, which ones? Must it have certain governance, accountability, and curricular features, and if so, which? Will this turn out to be a procedural requirement? To return to an earlier theme, perhaps the court will be looking for evidence that the political process abandoned the conventional fight between rich and poor school districts and instead focused its attention on what would be educationally best for the children in the state. Because the ''adequacy" approach is so new, its future remains uncertain.

In Kentucky, the legislature responded to the court's decision by enacting a sweeping and comprehensive statewide education reform package—the Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA; Trimble and Forsaith, 1995). On the school funding side, KERA established a new foundation program that substantially increased the guaranteed minimum per-pupil expenditure statewide.25 In addition to the funding reforms, KERA mandated a new statewide performance-based assessment system tied to new content-education standards, statewide curriculum frameworks, an accountability system with rewards and sanctions for schools tied to the achievement of high academic standards and the new assessments, as well as school-based decision-making statewide. While some debate whether and how much that reform has improved (or is likely to improve) student achievement, few question the sweeping nature of the reforms. Moreover, on the money side, a state that prior to 1990 was one of the lowest spending on public education in the country is now near the middle. Whether the Kentucky Supreme Court will be asked to pass on these reforms and, if so, what it might say, remains uncertain.

The 1990s: New Approaches and Mixed Results


The impact of the Kentucky decision and the legislature's response has been felt in many state courts across the country. Since 1989, courts in Alabama and Massachusetts have directly followed the Kentucky precedent. They have declared their education systems to be constitutionally inadequate under state law and have specifically relied on the Kentucky Supreme Court's definition of an adequate education when providing guidance to the state legislatures as they craft remedies (Alabama Coalition for Equity v. Hunt, reprinted in Appendix to Opinion of the Justices, 624 So.2d 107, 1993; McDuffy v. Secretary of Educ., 615 N.E.2d 516, 1993).

Five other state courts26 have also found that their state constitutions require

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement