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Making Money Matter: Financing America's Schools
students in the wealthiest districts in the state; in a later ruling the court made clear that equal opportunity included access to all educational and extracurricular activities that were available in the wealthiest districts as well as funding for supplemental programs to address the special educational needs of urban districts. The politics of finding legislative remedies satisfactory to the court were complicated by the fact that the court created an educational entitlement only for children in the 29 poorest districts and did not address the finance systems' constitutionality in the remaining 450 districts. Opposition to increased aid to urban districts and to the tax increases necessary to fund this aid derailed initial legislative attempts to comply with the court's ruling. Nonurban legislators who voted for the initial legislative reform package almost all lost their seats in 1991 and opposition to the reform package played a significant role in the defeat of Governor James Florio in 1993 (Carr and Fuhrman, 1999). The case was only settled in 1998 when the state supreme court, after rejecting another legislative reform in 1997, finally approved a detailed and comprehensive reform package.
Experiences in other states have also highlighted the political difficulties that frequently follow adequacy rulings by courts. Despite the similarity of the judicial decisions in Alabama and Kentucky, the fate of the former has been quite different from the latter. Antitax groups mobilized against comprehensive reform in Alabama; the Alabama Education Association opposed the bill as well because of its accountability features. In 1994 the state elected a governor (Fob James) who explicitly opposed the court order and tried (unsuccessfully) to have it overturned. To date finance reform has not occurred in Alabama and plaintiffs are still seeking judicial remedies. In Wyoming, an initial legislative effort to define and impute costs to a "proper education" was quickly challenged in court by plaintiffs seeking yet more revenue for Wyoming schools. By 1998, though, the legislative and executive branches came together to pass a reform that they believe will hold up against judicial scrutiny, a reform that raised the state education budget by approximately 10 percent and elevated per-pupil revenue into the $7,000 range. Ohio's legislature voted a new funding plan designed to provide an adequate instructional system, but voters refused to approve the necessary tax increase. Arizona's legislative and executive branches made several efforts to revamp the state's system for funding capital facilities and costs after the state supreme court ruling in 1994; in 1998 the court for the fourth time declared the state's effort unsatisfactory and gave the legislature 60 days to develop an acceptable plan.
States that are not under court order to implement educational adequacy have also attempted to link their educational reform and school finance agendas by asking "What is a core education and what does it cost" (Education Commission of the States, 1997). Their experience as well as the experience of states under court mandates to orient their school finance systems toward educational adequacy indicates that there are a number of conceptual and technical challenges to overcome.