most court decisions to date have focused? How can the concept be applied to school finance decisions that might arise under different institutional arrangements for public funding of education, e.g., to a system that embraces charter schools or vouchers or both as well as traditional public schools?
If states permit district add-ons to the state-determined ''adequate" spending level (as some court decisions already explicitly allow, while others do not), is this not likely to result in spending disparities that continue to put children from poor families or children living in poor communities at a relative disadvantage in terms of the educational opportunities they are offered? If add-ons are allowed, might not this reduce the support of people in wealthy communities for having the state set a high level of adequate spending?
What happens to the definition of an adequate education when it collides in the political arena with demands to "adequately" fund a host of other worthy objectives, such as better health care, a cleaner environment, well-maintained roads and bridges, safer streets, and so on? Even when a state court (as in Wyoming) finds grounds in the state constitution for giving education pride of place before all other public services, is it really possible to resolve basic resource allocation decisions about education in some rational and technical fashion rather than in the political arena? In this sense, is adequacy really something new under the sun or mainly a new and perhaps misleading label for the customary and unavoidable process of political bargaining?
How will courts or legislators determine if funding is adequate? It would clearly be a mistake to require that all students attain a certain level of achievement, since by that criterion any school that did not reach that goal would be entitled to additional funding no matter how inefficient it might be. The intent instead should be to ensure that schools have the resources that they would need to achieve the desired outcome, assuming that they produced education reasonably efficiently. The challenge arises in figuring out what that amount is.
This last point emphasizes the fundamental problem with adequacy as a new standard for school finance—namely, that it requires better knowledge than currently exists about how to determine what an adequate education costs. In fact, the state of the knowledge base is such what we are far from being able to provide empirically sound answers to the key questions of "adequacy for what" and "how much is adequate." This fundamental problem becomes clearer as we take up the issue of educational productivity in the next chapter.