then candidly conceded that insufficient funds were appropriated to implement the new system. Moreover, it is politically naive to expect the Wyoming legislators to be blind to what things cost and what they think the state can afford as they go about deciding what a "proper educational package" for all Wyoming students should be. Nonetheless, the thrust of the Wyoming court's decision is to try to change the political dynamics of its legislature's approach to school finance and education more generally.

Events since the court's decision, however, illustrate the intensely political nature of school funding controversies. The legislature worked diligently over the course of a year and a half to meet the court's requirements, and in June of 1997 passed a revised school funding plan. The Governor soon vetoed that bill, however, prompting both the original plaintiffs and several state legislators to return to court to compel compliance.

In the spring of 1998, the legislative and executive branches came together and worked out a reform that they hope will comply with the court's orders. The new school finance law raises school district funding from the state by $76.5 million, increasing the upcoming year's total education budget to $632.3 million. School funding is now based on a professional model of what sums ought to suffice to provide a high-quality public education for all Wyoming schoolchildren—taking into account differences among districts in both educational costs and pupil needs. The new law also establishes student assessment standards.


While adequacy claims are now dominating the field of school finance litigation, some cases continue to be fought on traditional equity grounds. For example, a group of students and parents in property-poor school districts in Vermont field suit challenging the constitutionality of the state school funding system, which allowed 79 percent of a school district's funds to be raised locally. The result of heavy reliance on local property taxes as a source of funding for the schools was that some wealthy districts spent twice as much per pupil as other less affluent districts. In its 1997 decision, the Vermont Supreme Court found that such disparities in resource availability, and the consequent disparities in educational opportunities throughout the state, violated the state constitution's equal protection clause (Brigham, No. 96–502, Vt. 1997). Reminiscent of the Coons team's theory, the Vermont decision suggests that future school finance systems in Vermont will not be able to have the wealth of a district's property base determine the educational resources and opportunities available to students.

In response to the decision, the Vermont legislature passed a new school finance, education reform, and tax reform plan during the 1997 session, which includes several components. This plan:

  • creates a per-student block grant ($5,000 for 1997) that is given to each

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