tion and student achievement. It thus brings education finance into the central policy dialogue about education, which is concerned with improving school and student performance. More than other equity concepts, adequacy is therefore directly rather than just indirectly related to goals 1 and 2, which have to do with student achievement. Adequacy suggests, but does not guarantee, that educational policy will increasingly be driven by a concern for spending resources in instructionally effective ways, which speaks to goal 1.

Adequacy implies that discussion of the level of educational resources to be made available should include explicit consideration of what the public and policy makers want the educational system to accomplish and what kinds of educational opportunities students must be given to meet these objectives. This orientation stands in contrast to much past and current decision making about education finance, which often is dominated by political bargaining over how to distribute available funds.

Adequacy promises to be especially important for addressing the second of the three goals: reducing the nexus between student background characteristics and student achievement. It requires, rather than just permits, attention to cost adjustments, a topic addressed further in Chapter 7. It also may lead to more focus on urban areas, where education is generally thought to be least adequate. Court cases and policy debates over the adequacy of school funding in cities should help resolve the question of whether money is the key problem in urban schools and focus attention on all the factors affecting the productivity of these schools.

While attracted by the appeal of these promises, the committee notes that there are major unresolved questions that must be addressed if school finance is to be held to an adequacy standard. By raising these questions, we do not intend to prejudge the ultimate usefulness of the adequacy concept; earlier concepts of equity were also daunting in their infancy, but over time much progress was made in defining and measuring them. What we do intend to point out is that adequacy as an equity concept still requires much development and must be used with an awareness of this fact. As courts and policy makers seek to apply an adequacy standard and as researchers attempt to improve understanding of adequacy, they must keep in mind the importance of addressing the following kinds of issues.

  • The meaning of adequacy is still unclear. Major questions remain open: is it a wide, high standard or a narrow, low standard? Does it focus attention and resources primarily on the disadvantaged or does it contribute to improving achievement for all students? These are not technical questions for which scientific answers can be provided; they will require difficult political judgments that may be subject to the same kinds of public resistance that have faced finance reformers in the past.

  • What will it mean to extend the concept of adequacy as an equity standard to federal, school, and student-level policies, not just to the district level, where

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