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Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives (1999)

Chapter: 7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements

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Suggested Citation:"7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements." National Research Council. 1999. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6166.
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7
Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements

James W. Guthrie

Richard Rothstein

Introduction

This chapter addresses the financial consequences of an evolving concept—that of an "adequate" education. A growing number of state court decisions suggest that "adequacy" is challenging "equity" as the standard to which state school revenue distribution plans should be held (see Minorini and Sugarman, Chapter 6 in this volume). Parallel school finance developments in states without such court mandates suggest that a commitment to provide an "adequate" education to all students is part of a broader national political consensus.

However, consensus about this goal may be outpacing our understanding of how to define and achieve it. Equity itself is more complex than it first appears, because nominal equity takes account neither of differences in student need nor of geographic differences in costs. The concept of adequacy adds an additional complexity, requiring us to link cost calculations to decisions about minimally appropriate resource input levels and schooling outcomes. While defining equity is essentially a technical enterprise, moving to adequacy requires policy and value judgments about which achieving consensus, ultimately, may be more difficult.

Following a brief history of the evolution of adequacy as a school finance concept, this chapter has five principal parts:

  • First, we examine definitional challenges associated with translating an abstract term, "adequate," into a practical school finance distribution formula, and survey three distinct approaches to the problem—statistical, empirical, and
  • Suggested Citation:"7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements." National Research Council. 1999. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6166.
    ×
  • Second, this chapter concentrates on one of the alternative strategies (the professional judgment method) and describes means for assembling instructional components capable of delivering whatever outcomes—educational content or pupil performance levels—are deemed "adequate." Here, we also discuss how policy decisions must be made about whether, and to what extent, school districts receiving a dollar value of resources deemed capable of producing adequate outcomes should be required by law or policy actually to utilize those dollars in ways research determines are most effective for achieving those outcomes.
  • Third, we discuss how to assign dollar values to such instructional components.
  • Fourth, we illustrate how, as in the search for equity alone, a determination of the cost of an adequate education for typical students can then be adjusted, to ensure financial "adequacy" for all pupils, by taking account of varied pupil characteristics, school scale and district characteristics, and differences in educational costs in different geographic regions of a state.
  • Finally, we briefly note some additional questions which remain unresolved in the calculation of adequacy. Chief among these is the additional policy debate regarding test and measurement means for appraising pupil progress toward whatever is legislatively specified as adequate academic performance (Carlson, 1996).
  • The authors recently participated in a commission from the state of Wyoming to respond to these challenges. We are currently engaged in refining our approach in other states as well. In what follows, we utilize these experiences to illustrate our themes.

    We discuss only problems related to how to spend adequate funds for education; this chapter does not discuss how to raise these funds, i.e., revenue sources and related taxation matters. It does not concern itself with physical facilities and other large capital outlay considerations. It only lightly touches on the role of federal government regulations or revenues in contributing to state efforts to achieve adequacy. Likewise, it barely references the non-finance components of a comprehensive education policy system, such as testing and accountability provisions or teacher training and staff development requirements, which might necessarily have to be joined with a revenue distribution plan to ensure what Clune refers to as "true adequacy" (Clune, 1994).

       

    judgmental. Each of these methods has a different strategy for anchoring the concept of "adequacy" in some sense of educational accomplishment, some goal to be achieved. This approach establishes baselines such that "inadequate" can be identified.

    Suggested Citation:"7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements." National Research Council. 1999. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6166.
    ×

    Historical Context

    In response to court decisions, several states, e.g., Alabama, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Vermont, and Wyoming, are presently attempting to construct practical definitions of an "adequate" education. These efforts take place against an historic backdrop. Table 7-1 utilizes a categorization of states-by-litigation status developed by Alan Hickrod, and then calculates real changes in education spending for each state from 1970 to 1995.

    School spending has been increasing in virtually every state, and we make no claim here that it is a concern for "adequacy" alone which is propelling the change. Our contention is more simple. A national pattern of growing elementary and secondary expenditures in states with or without a history of "equity" and/or "adequacy" litigation is apparent. With the exception of California, all states have increased average per-pupil spending in the last quarter century, and most have increased it dramatically. In some states without litigation, spending has increased to avoid litigation. In other states where courts have upheld previous financing schemes, spending has still increased at rates similar to those where litigation had an opposite result. Thus, we contend that the national "adequacy" debate can be seen, in part, as an effort to evaluate whether this spending growth has been sufficient and to ensure that the new money is distributed within states in a fashion that will produce desired outcomes.

    Historic "Adequacy": Politically Determined Inputs

    Despite recent interest, "adequacy" is not a new concept in school finance. Charles Benson explained it as early as 1978 (Benson, 1978). Kirst and Garms explored the term in a chapter on the evolving context of education reform in the initial American Education Finance Association yearbook published two decades ago (Kirst and Garms, 1980).

    But although the term "adequacy" has been used for 20 years, the concept has had a practical school finance meaning for much longer because many states have politically determined "adequate" levels of inputs to support the schooling process. The "foundation" distribution formula approach has existed since the beginning of the twentieth century, with elucidations by early school finance scholars such as Cubberley (1919a, 1919b), Mort et al. (1960), and Johns et al. (1983). Their "foundation plans" had "adequate'' as an assumed condition. The "foundation" was, and in most states still is, a per-pupil dollar floor below which a state does not permit a district's spending to fall.

    When the "foundation" finance distribution concept was originally adopted by states, and as it continues in most states today, governors and legislatures define "adequate" by determining how much state revenue is available, or how much additionally they are willing to generate through added taxation. This aggregate revenue amount has then been embedded in a minimum "foundation"

    Suggested Citation:"7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements." National Research Council. 1999. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6166.
    ×

    TABLE 7-1 Increased State Spending on Elementary and Secondary Educationa

    Stateb

    Year of Final Decision in First Court Case

    Nominal Spending Growth 1970-95 (in percent)

    Real Spending Growthc 1970-95 (in percent)

    States Where Court Decisions Required School Finance Reformd

    West Virginia

    1979

    837

    105

    Arkansas

    1983

    802

    97

    Connecticut

    1977

    827

    94

    Kentucky

    1989

    787

    94

    New Jersey

    1973

    795

    87

    Texas

    1989

    691

    73

    Ohio

    1979

    658

    66

    Tennessee

    1993

    632

    60

    Marylande

    1997

    625

    58

    New Hampshire

    1997

    652

    58

    Wyoming

    1980

    631

    53

    Massachusetts

    1993

    620

    51

    Vermont

    1997

    619

    51

    Washington

    1978

    576

    42

    Arizona

    1994

    543

    35

    Montana

    1989

    469

    19

    California

    1971

    384

    1

    States Where Court Decisions Upheld Existing School Finance System and Required No Reformf

    Georgia

    1981

    782

    93

    North Carolina

    1987

    739

    83

    Alaska

    1997

    766

    81

    Nebraska

    1993

    726

    81

    Maine

    1992

    751

    78

    Michigan

    1973

    707

    77

    South Carolina

    1988

    692

    73

    Rhode Island

    1992

    687

    65

    Virginia

    1994

    658

    65

    Pennsylvania

    1979

    666

    60

    Wisconsin

    1989

    629

    60

    New York

    1992

    604

    47

    Colorado

    1982

    594

    45

    Idaho

    1975

    593

    45

    Minnesota

    1993

    557

    44

    Oregon

    1979

    567

    40

    North Dakota

    1993

    492

    30

    Illinois

    1996

    461

    23

    Suggested Citation:"7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements." National Research Council. 1999. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6166.
    ×

    Stateb

    Nominal Spending Growth 1970-95 (in percent)

    Real Spending Growthc 1970-95 (in percent)

    States Where Litigation Is Pending

    Alabama

    761

    88

    Florida

    654

    65

    South Dakota

    610

    56

    New Mexico

    608

    48

    Louisiana

    571

    47

    Missouri

    548

    42

    States Without School Finance Litigationg

    Indiana

    788

    95

    Kansas

    651

    64

    Mississippi

    652

    64

    Oklahoma

    591

    51

    Nevada

    549

    36

    Hawaii

    540

    34

    Delaware

    486

    28

    Iowa

    455

    22

    Utah

    459

    17

    a State and local spending only; federal funds not included.

    b States listed by spending growth.

    c Real spending growth calculated by using regional services of the Consumer Price Index, adjusted by the CPI-U for 1970-78. (There is considerable scholarly controversy regarding the most appropriate deflator to use in the historical analysis of school spending. It is not appropriate to engage that debate here, but for purposes of this analysis, some deflator must be utilized. Our reasons for preferring a services deflator are discussed briefly under "Adjusting Adequate for Pupil, School, and Regional Characteristics" and are described in greater detail in the references cited in that section. However, regardless of which deflator is utilized, the point made by this table, that spending growth experience has been similar in states categorized differently by litigation status, would be unaffected. If this table had been adjusted utilizing the more conventional consumer price index, real spending growth would appear to be greater, but the diversity of states' growth, and the similarity of experiences within litigation status groups, would be similar.)

    d In some of these states, a reformed school finance system was also challenged in a subsequent court case.

    e While plaintiffs lost a court case, the state eventually signed a consent decree, agreeing to reform its system.

    f In some of these states, new cases have been filed; in some, plaintiffs have lost a second time, while other cases are pending.

    g Includes states where litigation was withdrawn or is dormant.

    SOURCE: For litigation status, Hickrod et al. (1997), updated by author; for Nominal Spending Growth, authors' calculations from the National Center for Education Statistics (1997); for Services Index, 1978-95, from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS; 1997); 1970-78, authors' estimates based on regional changes in CPI-U from BLS (1997). Table reproduced from Rothstein (1998).

    Suggested Citation:"7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements." National Research Council. 1999. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6166.
    ×

    distribution formula. Whatever this per-pupil minimum spending amount, it has then been presumed to be adequate. As Minorini and Sugarman (see Chapter 6, page 190, in this volume) note, "almost nowhere could it plausibly be shown that the actual minimum foundation plan level … had been determined as a result of a genuine statewide appraisal [of what is actually necessary to fund an 'adequate' education]." Some states, however, have relied on alternative definitions of adequate inputs, such as teacher certification requirements, state textbook selection, and class size or pupil-teacher maxima. The "foundation" has been intended to ensure that there is no systematic underinvestment in schooling within a state.

    Foundation-related, per-pupil revenue levels have been questioned politically and legally for three decades, since Coons et al. and Wise formulated legal challenges based on the United States Constitution's Fourteenth Amendment equal protection clause (Coons et al., 1970; Wise, 1968). However, it was initially a foundation program's statewide per-pupil revenue distributional equity which came under scrutiny, not the adequacy of that spending level. The legal assaults of the last three decades were mostly intended to ensure that state-authorized spending levels, be they adequate or inadequate, were at least equally accessible to local school districts. But recently, the focus has broadened.

    Modern Adequacy: Technically Defined and Outcome Oriented

    The evolving concept of "adequacy" suggests that something beyond equity is at issue. The "something else" is a notion of sufficiency, a per-pupil resource amount sufficient to achieve some performance objective. Thus, adequacy is increasingly being defined by the outcomes produced by school inputs, not by the inputs alone. Clune contends that as the nation increasingly debates means for obtaining higher levels of student academic performance, the policy debate is beginning to shift away from "equity" and toward means for ensuring that students receive resources enabling them to learn to higher standards. Thus, adequacy deliberations sometimes are bundled with quests for ''opportunity standards" (Porter, 1993). "Delivery standards" is another related idea asserting that pupils and schools cannot fairly be held accountable for performance unless there is first an assurance that the levels of available resources are adequate and that students are appropriately exposed to the knowledge they are expected to master.

    Definitional Challenges: Identifying Anchors For "Adequate"

    If adequate is to have a meaning beyond what is assigned to it via a set of political decisions about revenue availability, then a judgment has to be made about expected ends to be achieved, some level of accomplishment or performance. Adequate to do what? Adequate how? Adequate for what purpose?

    Responding to these queries necessitates at least a twofold policy judgment

    Suggested Citation:"7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements." National Research Council. 1999. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6166.
    ×

    about (1) learning or performance levels to be attained and (2) resource levels likely to permit schools to accomplish these learning purposes with students. This section is concerned principally with the first of these policy objectives, determining what students should know and be able to do. Only by specifying such an objective can calculations be undertaken to facilitate the second objective, specifying that the resource level involved is sufficient.

    Specifying learning is difficult, more difficult than it first appears. While we have an apparent national consensus that student outcomes are currently inadequate, this consensus extends only to the vaguest of generalities when it comes to specifying the extent to which this is the case.

    Consider one of the early attempts by a state court to define adequate outcomes, that of the West Virginia Supreme Court in Pauley v. Kelly in 1979. The Court required the legislature to fund a school system that would develop "in every child" these capacities; see Box 7-1.

    Other state courts and legislatures have required funding adequate to develop similar collections of competencies; in at least one case (Kentucky, in Rose v. Council for Better Education, 1989) an additional, relative, capacity was added: "sufficient levels of academic or vocational skills to enable public school students to compete favorably with their counterparts in surrounding states."

    The Wyoming Supreme Court (in Campbell County v. The State of Wyoming , 1995) required resources sufficient to provide each student with a "proper education," and the legislature subsequently defined a basket of education goods

    BOX 7-1 West Virginia Supreme Court Definition of an Adequate Education

    SOURCE: Pauley v. Kelly, 255 S.E. 2nd 859 (W.V., 1979).

    (1)  

     

    literacy;

    (2)  

     

    ability to add, subtract, multiply and divide numbers;

    (3)  

     

    knowledge of government to the extent that the child will be equipped as a citizen to make informed choices among persons and issues that affect his own governance;

    (4)  

     

    self-knowledge and knowledge of his or her total environment to allow the child to intelligently choose life work—to know his or her options;

    (5)  

     

    work-training and advanced academic training as he child may intelligently choose;

    (6)  

     

    recreational pursuits;

    (7)  

     

    interests in all creative arts, such as music, theater, literature, and the visual arts;

    (8)  

     

    social ethics, both behavioral and abstract, to facilitate compatibility with others in this society.

    Suggested Citation:"7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements." National Research Council. 1999. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6166.
    ×

    and services that comprise such a proper (in our terms, "adequate") education. The basket consisted of some 30 courses and kinds of knowledge, designed to achieve a group of broader outcomes similar to those specified in West Virginia, Kentucky, and other states. The legislature deliberated upon these outcomes in great detail. For example, one Wyoming goal in the basket of expected outcomes and courses specified that every child should learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation. This objective was subsequently altered in favor of learning to balance a checkbook and manage a retirement portfolio. Boxes 7-2 and 7-3 display the Wyoming "Basket of Education Goods and Services."

    Even a cursory glance at these "baskets" suggests that few of these outcomes can be, or are, measured by the standardized reading and math tests that most uninformed discussions of school finance assume can measure adequacy. Whether, for example, the same resources that produce mathematical competency also, without augmentation, produce adequate performance in the fine and performing arts, is a question which analyses of finance adequacy cannot ignore, but which has yet barely been addressed by education finance theorists.

    Despite the difficulties, however, the adequacy litigation and legislation in Wyoming suggest a range of achievement levels and exposure to knowledge and skills that can serve as ends toward which to orient a practical school finance distribution system. Any of these outputs or ends can serve as an anchor around which to design particular components of an overall instructional system. Once an acceptable instructional system is in place, it should then, in principle, be possible to assign costs to the components.

    Designing an Instructional Delivery System

    Designing a state school finance system, even one oriented toward "adequacy," inevitably creates a tension between the dictates of a "system" design and the characteristics of individual students. State policymakers cannot easily prescribe the nature of instruction and the levels of resources for each of a state's literally thousands or millions of individual students. Hence, the necessity of designing a "system." Such a system should attempt to provide local school districts, local schools, and even classroom teachers with resources and inducements to tailor instruction to the characteristics of students. Ultimately, though, state-level policymakers must design a school finance system; they cannot now design a resource allocation program for each individual student. Because current policy tools are often clumsy, the needs of school finance systems on occasion may appear insensitive to the needs of individual students. Tailoring school finance to individual student characteristics is a research frontier where far more knowledge is needed.

    Given the above-mentioned complexity, policy analysts and researchers have been pioneering three approaches to calculate the costs of adequacy: (1) inference from outcomes by statistical analysis, (2) inference from outcomes by empirical

    Suggested Citation:"7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements." National Research Council. 1999. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6166.
    ×

    BOX 7-2 The Wyoming Basket, 1990-1997

    Regulations adopted by the State Board of Education in 1990 required that:



    Section 7. Common Core of Knowledge. All public school students shall meet the student performance standards at the level set by the school and district in the following areas of knowledge:

    (a)  

     

    Language Arts;

    (b)  

     

    Social Studies;

    (c)  

     

    Mathematics;

    (d)  

     

    Science;

    (e)  

     

    Fine Arts and Performing Arts;

    (f)  

     

    Physical Education;

    (g)  

     

    Health and Safety;

    (h)  

     

    Humanities;

    (i)  

     

    Career Options;

    (j)  

     

    Foreign Cultures Including Languages;

    (k)  

     

    Applied Technology



    Section 8. Common Core of Skills. All public school students shall meet student performance standards at the level set by school and district in the following skills:

    (a)  

     

    Problem Solving;

    (b)  

     

    Interpersonal Communications;

    (c)  

     

    Keyboarding and Computer Applications;

    (d)  

     

    Critical Thinking;

    (e)  

     

    Creativity;

    (f)  

     

    Life Skills, including Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) training.

    Section 11. At-Risk Students. The district shall have policies and procedures for every school in the district to identify and intervene with at-risk students. In addition, all schools shall provide instruction as appropriate through the school curriculum directed at the prevention of at-risk behavior.



    Section 12. [High School] Graduation Requirements.

    (a)  

     

    A student shall master the student performance standards within the common core of knowledge and skills at the levels set by the district and the schools, including alternative schools.



    Section 13. Services. All districts shall provide the following support services for all students:

    (a)  

     

    Health Services;

    (b)  

     

    Media Services;

    (c)  

     

    Guidance Services

    SOURCE: Catchpole (1996).

    Suggested Citation:"7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements." National Research Council. 1999. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6166.
    ×

    BOX 7-3 The Wyoming Legislative Enacted 1997 Basket

    In 1997 the Wyoming Legis ature adopted these requirements into law and made the following modifications:

    Common Core of Knowledge.

    Changed "Language Arts" to "Reading/language arts" and required that reading writing and mathematics be emphasized in grades 1 through 8.

    Changed "Career Options" to ''Career/vocational education."

    Added "Government and Civics (including state and federal constitutions)"

    Common Core of Skills.

    Changed "Life Skills, including Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) Training" to "Life skills, including personal financial management skills."

    Added [High School] Graduation Requirements.

    Four school years of English

    Three school years of Mathematics

    Three school years of Science

    Three school years of Social Studies

    (including history, American government and economic systems and institutions)

    Mastery of the common core of knowledge and skills

    SOURCE: Catchpole (1996).

    observation, and (3) professional judgment. The first and second of these approaches usually depend upon states having sophisticated student achievement testing systems which provide standardized statewide measures of student performance, with data linking this performance to student background characteristics.1 In states where such testing systems do not exist, then the third approach, professional judgment, seems to be the only alternative, where "getting to adequate" necessitates building an instructional resource model to which costs can subsequently be assigned. As we note below, however, we regard the professional judgment method as preferable in many respects, even where testing systems do exist.

    Each of these three alternatives results in an estimate of the cost of an adequate education for a presumed or hypothetical typical student. Having made this calculation, each alternative must then adjust this cost (or perhaps redefine the goal of adequate outcomes) for students in different socioeconomic circumstances and locations. With these results—estimates of the cost of an adequate education for each category and location of students in a state—policymakers must then determine whether and how districts may be required to spend the

    Suggested Citation:"7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements." National Research Council. 1999. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6166.
    ×

    funds in an efficient manner likely to produce the desired adequate outcomes. Here, again, is the tension between the design of a "system" and the possible different characteristics of individual students.

    Inference from Outcomes by Statistical Analysis

    Statistical analysis is one way to relate observed student outcomes to resources, in hopes that adequate resource costs can then be inferred. This method, in effect, conflates into a single step the challenges of inferring adequate resource levels and pricing those levels. Rather than identifying specific instructional components deemed necessary to achieve adequate outcomes, and then pricing these components, this statistical method infers total value of the components by associating total school district spending with adequate outcomes.

    In this "black box," or raw correlational approach, the policy system, after determining an acceptable level of pupil performance or proficiency, then determines a delivery system dollar amount associated with it. This strategy bypasses any effort to construct or deduce a desired instructional delivery system. Such a bypass also obviates the need to determine costs of instructional components. Under this correlational approach, the "cost" of attaining "adequacy'' is whatever agencies that achieve adequate outcomes happen to spend, after accounting for any identifiable inefficiencies in these agencies' operations.

    While the statistical methods are complex, the principle behind them is relatively simple. With a sufficiently large database, each factor contributing to school costs can be examined and its unique relationship to another factor determined, distinct from the influence of other factors. For example, we may want to know how much more it "costs" to hire a teacher in an urban community than in a nonurban one. If we have sufficient data on teacher salaries and community characteristics, we can separate the common relationship between salary and urbanicity in all communities from the factors that may vary from community to community—like teachers' experience or training, community climate, community housing costs, etc. The result is the statistical generation of an abstract urban community where teacher salaries are uninfluenced by variations in these other costs, or by the choices districts may make in the type of teacher they hire.

    If adopted as a basis for policy, this correlational strategy would derive a unit cost (per classroom or per pupil) amount found to be associated with adequate levels of pupil academic achievement and recommend allocation of such resource levels to school districts or other operational agencies. This approach could include statistical controls for social and economic characteristics of students. How available revenues were translated into an instructional delivery system would be of no policy consequence in such a "black box" approach. Presumably, districts or schools would be free to undertake whatever operational translation they desired, knowing that assigned per-pupil revenue amounts had been found sufficient to elevate their mix of pupils to the specified level of performance.

    Suggested Citation:"7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements." National Research Council. 1999. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6166.
    ×

    This statistical approach to estimating adequacy has won increasing favor among academic econometricians in recent years. The methodology has recently been applied to New York data by Duncombe and Yinger (see Chapter 8 in this volume), and to Wisconsin data by Reschovsky and Imazeki (1998). Ladd and Yinger (1994) and Downes and Pogue (1994) have made important theoretical contributions on which the Wisconsin and New York studies build. These analyses, in turn, build on the path-breaking work of Chambers (1998), whose efforts of the last two decades have now culminated in a "GCEI," or geographic cost of education index. While Chambers, and econometricians who have followed him, usually claim only to provide a method for calculating how costs of education differ for students with varying needs and in varying locations, it is but a small additional step to link these indices to an outcome measure so that the indices calculate the cost of achieving a given educational outcome for students with varying needs and in varying locations. Indeed, outcome measures are implicit in a cross-sectional index, even where the index makes no claims about adequacy. In the case of Chamber's GCEI, for example, no test scores or other outcome measures are utilized. Nonetheless, differences in student need are considered an external cost imposed on school districts. Thus, coefficients in the GCEI describe how much more it costs a district to educate children from minority families, or in districts with high crime rates. However, this measure can describe only how much districts actually spend, over and above their regular spending, on the education of children in these districts, once other factors influencing spending are controlled. The measure does not determine whether this additional spending is the correct amount to generate outcomes for at-risk children (defined in this way) that are comparable to outcomes for other children. Without an implicit assumption that outcomes are thereby made comparable, it is unclear what relevance these coefficients might have.

    In principle, if a decision is made regarding acceptable achievement levels, then the per-pupil spending level related to such pupil performance can be inferred. Duncombe and Yinger's New York studies relate student achievement to a variety of schooling and school district characteristics, including per-pupil spending levels. They necessarily rely on a limited number of outcome (achievement) measures in the construction of their equations, assuming that "outcomes often are highly correlated with each other" (Duncombe et al., 1996). Their equations include controls for 3rd- and 6th-grade math and reading test scores, graduation rates, and the percentage of students who receive the more rigorous New York State Regents Diploma. Incorporating additional achievement measures would not only increase the complexity of the calculations but also, if the extent of collinearity is unknown, inject unknown errors into the results. Further, many of the desirable outcomes (as defined, for example, in the Wyoming basket or in the West Virginia Pauley v. Kelly decision) are not presently measured and cannot be quantified for use in such a statistical model.

    Because these indicators (test scores, graduation rates, and Regents Diploma

    Suggested Citation:"7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements." National Research Council. 1999. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6166.
    ×

    awards) may not accurately measure the totality of school outcomes, Duncombe and Yinger prefer an alternative "indirect" control for school district performance. They assume that average school district performance is one where voters likely to have children in the public schools vote for average property tax rates in communities with average incomes. These (abstract) communities can then be used to observe how much per-pupil spending is necessary to achieve average educational outcomes, again while controlling for other cost or discretionary factors.

    Using this preferred "indirect" measure, Duncombe and Yinger conclude that average school performance in New York City costs 7 percent more than the cost of this performance in the average district statewide. Yet when they calculate education costs using the "direct" performance measures (test scores, graduation rates, and Regents Diplomas), they find that New York City's costs are 262 percent more than average. These widely divergent results discourage confidence in either measure. Statistical sophistication has, in this case, outpaced ability to explain the relationship between spending and school performance.

    Reschovsky and Imazeki also utilize a statistical methodology to estimate the cost of adequacy in Wisconsin districts. They measure outcomes by 10th-grade test scores, controlled for 8th-grade scores of the same students. By this means, they attempt to isolate the "value added" by school districts, reasoning that the 8th-grade score may reflect students' social capital and instruction in other locations as well as the effectiveness of instruction in the present district. "Adequate" outcomes are defined as the average 10th-grade value-added throughout the state; Reschovsky and Imazeki conclude that the cost of achieving this adequacy, before adjusting for student need and geographic differences, is $6,331 per pupil. They truncate their cost index, however, and reduce the adjustment called for in the case of Milwaukee, believing that ''no district could have costs that were more than twice the average." (Recall that the Duncombe-Yinger direct approach yielded a result for New York City that was 3.5 times the state average.) Reschovsky and Imazeki also find that education costs in the Milwaukee suburbs were 11 percent below the state average, while Chambers found that teacher costs in these suburbs were 17 percent above average. These substantial differences between models with seemingly similar plausibilities suggest that statistical methods cannot soon be expected to command authority as a way actually to adjust state education expenditures.2

    Even if it were possible to quantify all outcomes, such models could at best tell us what resource levels were generally associated with acceptable achievement (with inefficient practices removed, to the extent known), not what resource levels would be necessary, if used efficiently, for this achievement. To reach this level of analysis, the statistical controls would have to include alternative pedagogies and curricula, something beyond our sophistication. If the policy goal is for a legislature to adopt (or a court to mandate) the minimum level of resources necessary to achieve acceptable outcomes, this becomes a crucial distinction.

    Suggested Citation:"7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements." National Research Council. 1999. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6166.
    ×

    Statistical methods, like those of Chambers, Duncombe-Yinger, and Reschovsky-Imazeki, appear to have a greater level of precision than the judgments of professional educators about what spending is necessary to achieve acceptable results. (Duncombe and Yinger, Chapter 8 in this volume, refer to professionals' judgments as "ad hoc, with no demonstrated connection between the environmental factors and educational costs" [p. 271].) Yet in reality, the precision implied by statistical modeling may be misleading because each of the definitions of data used in these equations, and rationales for their use, requires assumptions and judgments that are not necessarily more precise than those of professionals operating without statistical models. For example, the Duncombe and Yinger control for "efficiency" assumes that districts are more efficient to the extent they rely on local, rather than state funds, but this assumption requires greater examination than the authors can give it. As we discuss below, the percentage of students receiving free or reduced price lunches is a very poor proxy for at-risk children, yet most modelers must use this indicator because none other is available. Most models control for teacher experience in defining what a teacher "costs," yet few education researchers believe that there is a simple relationship between teacher quality and experience. (To the extent the relationship is not simply linear, then pay for experience may incorporate some inefficiency, not a cost of adequacy.) Similarly, Chamber's analysis shows that teacher salaries are higher where more teachers graduated from colleges whose entering freshmen had higher SAT scores, yet few professional educators would be willing to conclude that such teachers are necessarily higher quality teachers, and so the higher prices paid for them might be an inefficient expenditure rather than a district choice to purchase higher quality.

    Or consider the assumptions implicit in the Duncombe and Yinger attempt to estimate adequacy by an "indirect" voter preference-tax price methodology. In effect (to paraphrase Justice Stewart's oft-repeated observation about pornography), the indirect method acknowledges that we can't define the elements of an adequate education, but insists that, nonetheless, voters know it when they see it. While this is an interesting hypothesis, and worthy of extensive empirical investigation, it is itself as imprecise as professional judgment. Even if tax-price behavior reflects something about the value of education, voters may value education based on incomplete or inaccurate information. Indeed, one of the dilemmas confronting advocates of school choice as a competitive means of improving school quality is that, when choice has actually been implemented, parents have chosen schools for a wide variety of reasons, quality not necessarily being paramount. Some parents choose schools from inadequate information or unequal access to it (Carnegie Foundation, 1992); some because they wish to associate with others from their racial or ethnic subgroup (Wells, 1993); some because they believe schools are of better quality if they enroll children from more affluent neighborhoods (Willms and Echols, 1993). Yet the "indirect" method of postulating outcomes must assume, if it is to be used as a basis for calculating true

    Suggested Citation:"7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements." National Research Council. 1999. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6166.
    ×

    costs, that voters are rational and well informed about educational quality. If not, we can't utilize voting behavior to define adequacy.

    Because assumptions of this kind are so necessary before modeling can be interpreted, the seemingly precise results of the models reflect the imprecision of the assumptions. Unless we can become more satisfied with the precision of the assumptions, we cannot conclude that statistical modeling is a more precise means of estimating the cost of adequacy than is the informed judgment of policymakers and professionals. This should not be surprising. While econometric modeling of the costs of education is relatively new, this aid to policymaking has long been used in other social policy fields. And while econometricians plausibly defend the validity of their conclusions, they have not been able to persuade policymakers that particular models can effectively predict, for example, whether a minimum wage increase will cause unemployment, whether trade agreements cause job relocation, whether higher welfare benefits reduce poverty, or whether interest rate reductions are inflationary. In each of these cases, conclusions from modeling may challenge commonsense misconceptions and may help to inform debates, but cannot resolve them.

    We do not mean to suggest that these modeling exercises in education are not important or useful. Quite the contrary. They hold great academic and theoretical interest, and may suggest insights that would stimulate productive further research into the relationship between spending and student achievement. We consider, for example, the Duncombe and Yinger findings of widely different costs for New York City using direct and indirect methods of estimating achievement to be a particularly provocative call for further investigation.

    Because the technology of calculating "adequacy" is so primitive, it can be very useful to compare, for a given state, the costs of adequacy determined by these statistical methods with the costs determined by alternative approaches described below (empirical observation and professional judgment). If the results of the three approaches differ significantly, this should cause policymakers to reexamine the assumptions in each of the models to determine, if possible, which variations in assumption are driving the differences. There is no state, however, where such an exercise has been conducted.

    At the most practical level, because of its technical complexity, there is little chance that statistical modeling can be proposed to any state as the primary means of calculating the cost of an adequate education or as the primary way of estimating how the costs of education may vary from place to place or from student to student. Ultimately, when courts demand or legislatures determine that an adequate education be funded, they will require a calculation of this adequacy that seems intuitively reasonable, that is understandable to reasonably well-educated policymakers, and that can be explained to constituents. For such calculations, other methods are required. These other methods must rely upon assumptions about educational productivity that are no less intuitive than the assumptions made by modelers, but in these other methods, the assumptions are more explicit,

    Suggested Citation:"7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements." National Research Council. 1999. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6166.
    ×

    and so the focus of debate can more easily concentrate on the assumptions themselves, not the calculations flowing from them.

    An Empirical Search for What Is Instructionally "Adequate"

    This strategy determines a level of acceptable pupil performance or proficiency specified as adequate, and then identifies school districts or schools which achieve the desired goals. The level of resources expended by such school districts is then deemed to be adequate. "The underlying assumption is that any district should be able to accomplish what some districts do accomplish" (Augenblick, 1997:4). Skeptics may contend that such deductive strategies are based upon past and existing expenditure patterns which may themselves be products of unfair and perhaps unconstitutional school finance plans, and thus these strategies lead to recommendations for the underfunding of education. However, the actual spending levels determined by research to be associated with desired levels of pupil performance seem to achieve the goal in mind. In effect, what successful districts spend, however unconstitutional or inadequate they may appear when examined without reference to outcomes, has sufficed to obtain the performance ends desired. Hence, these dollar amounts must be presumed to be "adequate," provided their statistical derivation has fully controlled for the non-school resource factors (like student family background characteristics) that are also known to affect academic achievement. In reality, as with the statistical model discussed previously, this strategy runs a greater danger of leading to over-funding of education, because it relies on data from all districts that produce adequate outcomes, including those that produce adequate outcomes inefficiently.3

    The empirical approach is described in detail in a 1995 investigation undertaken by Augenblick, Alexander, and Guthrie for the state of Ohio, and then revised in a report by Augenblick in 1997 (Augenblick et al., 1995; Augenblick, 1997). It initially involved constructing a representative pool of Ohio school districts, comprised of all Ohio districts save those which were characterized by high and low extremes of property wealth and per-pupil spending. Once such outliers had been removed, remaining districts were ranked by a composite of student performance measures in reading, mathematics, writing, and science. Districts whose average student performance was at the 70th percentile or higher on most measures were defined as providing a minimally adequate education.

    Augenblick et al. (1995) next examined instructional arrangements of the districts which met the performance criteria. These districts' mixes of instructionally related components such as ratio of professionals to pupils, class sizes, school sizes, and course offerings were distilled and taken to be instrumentally exemplary for districts attempting to reach specified levels of achievement. These exemplary conditions and practices can be taken as a model instructional program, one empirically verified by student performance. It then becomes possible to assign costs to these empirically derived instructional components.

    Suggested Citation:"7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements." National Research Council. 1999. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6166.
    ×

    A problem with this approach is its suggestion that the identified instructional components and mixes are highly desirable. A local school district deviating from such resource norms would be at risk, unless it produced higher-than-expected student academic achievement. A revenue distribution program that funds specific instructional components, whether derived empirically, as in the 1995 Ohio study, or through professional judgment, as we describe (below) for Wyoming, can restrict local school district discretion and, thus, initiative. Because a state identifies a collection of resources as adequate, and funds that collection, it does not mean that districts should be prevented from organizing resources and instructional delivery differently to achieve the same objective. There is an inherent tension between the state's interest in guaranteeing to each school district an adequate level of resources, and the state's interest in assuring that local initiative, creativity and sense of control are mobilized to deliver those resources.

    These criticisms were leveled against the 1995 Augenblick et al. report. In response, Augenblick's 1997 report revised the earlier approach by eliminating any empirical observation of school inputs, only observing the average per-pupil spending level that was correlated with acceptable outcomes. In addition, and in response to other criticism, the more recent report abandons a norm-referenced outcome measure (the 70th percentile of the statewide district achievement distribution) and adopts a criterion-referenced measure (percent passage of minimum competency levels).

    Augenblick, therefore, now identifies 102 (out of 607) Ohio school districts whose students meet 17 of 18 performance thresholds, or output criteria (outlier high and low property wealth and/or highand low-spending districts were again eliminated from consideration). In addition to a dropout rate of 3 percent or less and an attendance rate of at least 93 percent, the remaining 16 criteria consist of specified passage rates on the state's minimum proficiency tests. (For example, four of the criteria are passage rates of 75 percent on the 4th-grade proficiency tests in reading, mathematics, writing, and citizenship, and another four are passage rates of 60 percent on the comparable 12th-grade proficiency tests.) Once having identified a pool of districts which did not exhibit extremes of wealth or spending and in which students had met these state measured performance criteria, Augenblick constructed a weighted per-pupil revenue amount from among eligible district expenditure patterns. The per-pupil dollar amount derived from this process was $3,930, based on 1996 Ohio spending levels (Augenblick, 1997). This, then, is the Augenblick definition of "adequacy" for Ohio school districts (before additional resources are added for students with special needs and other factors).

    A similar approach was used by Illinois Governor James Edgar's Commission on Education Funding in 1996 to estimate the cost of the foundation of an adequate education. The Commission retained Fordham University Professor Bruce Cooper, acting on behalf of the Coopers & Lybrand accounting firm, to

    Suggested Citation:"7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements." National Research Council. 1999. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6166.
    ×

    carry out the calculations of a foundation level for Illinois schools. To establish this foundation level, Cooper grouped schools by poverty (defined by the percentage of students receiving free or reduced-price lunches) into those where eligibility was less than 20 percent, those where it was 20-40 percent, and those where it was greater than 40 percent. In each poverty grouping, schools were then identified where composite (grades 3, 6, and 8 for elementary schools, grade 11 in high schools) scores on the Illinois Goals Assessment Program were in the top quartile of all schools' scores. Of these high-performance schools, per-pupil expenditures were averaged only for those schools whose per-pupil expenditures were below average for the state as a whole. Presumably, these criteria resulted in average expenditures calculated from only efficient high-performance schools. With this procedure, the 1995-96 average (i.e., the cost of adequacy) was calculated to be $4,225 per pupil. (Not all expenditures were intended to be covered by this foundation; costs of special education, bilingual education, categorical programs, transportation, school lunch, and certain other services were excluded.) The Commission recommended that this foundation level of adequacy then be adjusted for regional cost of living differences and for student poverty rates. The Commission's report, however, was not adopted by the state legislature, despite the governor's endorsement.4

    Augenblick, Myers, and Anderson (1997) also report that a similar empirical approach has now been adopted by Mississippi, which has identified 30 successful schools where test scores are satisfactory and concluded that the costs of operating these schools is "reasonable." This cost of education in these 30 schools is being defined as the cost of adequacy, with adjustments made to this necessary cost for districts with varying costs of living, student poverty rates, etc. As of this writing, however, the Mississippi method has not been described in the published education finance literature.

    A limitation of the Ohio and Illinois (and presumably, the Mississippi) approaches, as with similar approaches discussed above, is that the minimum proficiency tests measure only certain cognitive outcomes, not the full range of cognitive, value, and behavioral outcomes we (and the courts) regard as adequate. As we noted above, it may be that further study will determine that all outcomes are positively related, i.e., a district in which most students pass proficiency tests in reading, mathematics, writing, and citizenship is also likely to be a district that adequately develops student "interests in all creative arts, such as music, theater, literature, and the visual arts" or a district most of whose students have adequate "social ethics, both behavioral and abstract, to facilitate compatibility with others in this society." However, with no available research on these relationships, it would be premature to jump to such conclusions.

    Another limitation of the Augenblick et al. (1997) approach is that the proficiency test passage data utilized are uncontrolled for student characteristics. It is assumed, for example, that districts with large proportions of economically disadvantaged and/or racial minority youth can produce passage on proficiency tests

    Suggested Citation:"7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements." National Research Council. 1999. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6166.
    ×

    utilizing basic resources with the same resources as districts with smaller proportions of such youth.5 Recent work by Grissmer analyzing student achievement by the "value added" in schools demonstrates that analyses of test scores without such controls can be misleading (Grissmer et al., 1994). As noted above, statistical "black box" approaches to adequacy attempt roughly to control for the additional costs of educating students who bring less social capital to schooling, although the success of such controls is open to question.

    Full controls for student characteristics, leading to sufficient resources for each demographic category of student to achieve the same adequate outcomes, are consistent with an apparent national consensus that identical minimal competency (in our terms, minimally adequate outcomes) should be achieved by all schools, irrespective of their students' socioeconomic characteristics. The state of Texas, for example, categorizes schools by race/ethnicity and income levels, but requires schools in each category to have a minimum 35 percent passage rate on the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (Olson and Hendrie, 1998). We tend to believe that this is an unreasonable approach to adequacy, but reserve final judgment pending additional data. It could be an important exercise to determine whether the resources required to achieve this minimum passage rate were the same in each socioeconomic category, and if not, whether full funding of the differences is a realistic goal. As we described in an earlier section, one statistical study concludes that a combination of geographic cost and student needs differences results in an adequacy funding definition for New York City that is two to three times the state average; another concludes that costs in Milwaukee are over twice the state average. We suspect that, at least for the foreseeable future, legislatures are unlikely to fund such a wide range of variation.

    There are two difficulties facing analysts who attempt to fine tune the relationship of student social and economic circumstances to the acquisition of specified achievement levels, difficulties shared in common by those who utilize either of the three approaches (statistical, empirical, judgmental) to adequacy.

    First, obtaining data and gaining professional agreement on the best way statistically to control for student socioeconomic status is difficult. Many education researchers use the percentage of children who receive free or subsidized meals under the Federal school lunch program as a proxy for the economic status of a school. Nationally, about half of all schoolchildren benefit. But participation rates provide only bifurcated data: a child's family is either poor enough to qualify for the lunch program, or it is not, yet the most important distinctions between children's readiness to learn occur within each of those groups. Stable lower-middle-class families (with incomes up to 185 percent of the poverty line, now more than $30,000 a year for a family of four) are eligible, as well as welfare recipients; stable middle-class families earning more than about $30,000 a year are ineligible, along with the affluent.

    A more important deficiency of school lunch data is the wide range of participation, even among schools that may be socioeconomically similar.

    Suggested Citation:"7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements." National Research Council. 1999. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6166.
    ×

    Schools often forfeit an effort to encourage older children to enroll in the program; adolescents often do not consider it "cool." How many elementary school children enroll is also related to the extent to which school administrators and teachers aggressively promote it. Changing policy priorities of federal, state, and district officials can affect how well documented eligibility must be. In some schools, eligible children may be denied participation because applications were not properly completed; in others, ineligible children participate because of lax administration. If we compare test scores between schools in different communities that may have the same percentage of children eligible for free and reduced-price lunches, we still cannot be confident we are comparing children who are similar.

    Second, even if these data and modeling challenges can be overcome, the endeavor is fraught with moral and political difficulty. If we abandon Texas's one-standard-fits-all approach, do we specify, for example, that in most districts, 75 percent of students are expected to pass a proficiency test, but it is somehow acceptable for districts with mostly low-income families to have a 35 percent passage rate? Ohio, Illinois, and Texas calculate adequacy with methods that answer this question firmly in the negative. Regardless of student socioeconomic status, all schools must achieve the same average proficiency to be considered to have adequate outcomes.

    We are not persuaded that this answer is satisfactory. If it were possible to specify what resources would be needed to ensure that even low-income students achieved at 75 percent proficiency, this almost certainly would be more resources than are necessary to achieve an "adequate" (i.e., 75 percent) result in districts with more advantaged students. At the moment, however, the science of determining adequacy does not permit us even to begin discussions with such precision.

    The Augenblick approach controls for efficiency in another regard: it excludes from consideration districts above the 95th or below the 5th percentile in spending for administration, operations and pupil support (counselors, librarians, etc.), even if these districts' outcome criteria meet the thresholds.6 This definition of efficiency should also be examined further; resources for pupil support and those for instruction may, to some extent, be substitutable; a district that achieves minimum outcomes by using more counselors and fewer teachers might not necessarily be doing so inefficiently.

    A "Professional Expert" Strategy for Identifying Instructional Components

    An alternative strategy for determining the instructional components undergirding an "adequate" education is to rely upon professional judgment to construct an ideal-type delivery system, without either statistical or empirical inference from actual measured outcomes. The components of such a system can then be identified and costs assigned to them. While, at first glance, such an approach

    Suggested Citation:"7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements." National Research Council. 1999. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6166.
    ×

    may seem unscientific, the approximations inherent in professional judgment may be no less precise than those embedded, though more hidden, in statistical or empirical methods. It is possible that professional judgment, if carefully exercised, may be better able to adjust for the vast multitude of factors involved than a statistical or empirical approach.

    A school finance system in which the state funded, or guaranteed funding, for a defined set of resources in each district (including class sizes, teacher salary levels, a specific number of administrators and clerical staff, etc.) was once common, particularly in Southern states (Augenblick and Myers, 1994). It is no longer widely used, however, and this system predated a concern to link these resource models to a notion of "adequacy." The notion of input adequacy, however, was implicit in these systems. Once adequacy became an explicit concern, a "professional judgment" approach was developed by Jay Chambers and Thomas Parrish in proposals they made for funding adequate education systems in Illinois in 1992 and in Alaska 2 years later (Chambers and Parrish, 1994). Because they recognized that no precise technology exists for linking resources to outcomes in education, they declined to term their goal "adequate," using the term "appropriate" instead. Calling their method the ''Resource Cost Model" (RCM), Chambers and Parrish convened committees of teachers, administrators, and public officials to deliberate and determine what resources were necessary to deliver an appropriate education. They toured facilities across the states and met with local educators and policymakers. They concluded in Illinois, for example, that teacher staffing resources should be provided so that a regular grade 1-3 class should have 22 pupils, that a speech therapist should have a caseload of 62 pupils, and that schools insulated to a proper standard should have resources to purchase energy to maintain a year-round building temperature of 70 degrees.

    The charge of these committees was not entirely to specify the resources of an appropriate education, because they were also told they must "keep a balance between the resources they would like to see specified for each educational program and what they believed to be affordable" (Chambers and Parrish, 1994:53) given the states' fiscal and political realities. Operating under these guidelines, the process resulted in a recommendation for an appropriate funding level that was 2 percent greater than present total funding in Illinois, and 16 percent greater than present total funding in Alaska. However, the Chambers-Parrish specifications of appropriateness, developed through this process, would have required substantial redistribution of resources from district to district within these states.

    Having specified appropriate level of resources by this consultative process, employing professional judgment, Chambers and Parrish utilized a statistical analysis to estimate the costs and the intra-state cost differences of providing these resources. The result, however, was that "policymakers [in both states] tended to find the overall system somewhat incomprehensible and complex"

    Suggested Citation:"7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements." National Research Council. 1999. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6166.
    ×

    (Chambers and Parrish, 1994:72). The RCM was not, therefore, ultimately adopted as a basis for policy in these states.

    While Chambers and Parrish relied on the professional judgment of Illinois and Alaska educators in specifying resource levels required for an adequate (i.e., appropriate) education, it may now or soon be possible to specify adequate resource levels based on a distillation of national empirical research about effective schools and judgments of professional researchers regarding effective practices. Such specifications might be based on "whole school designs," off-the-shelf school blueprints intended for adoption in their entirety by schools (Odden, 1997; Odden and Busch, 1998). The New American Schools organization has adopted seven of these designs for promotion to schools, including "Roots and Wings (Success for All)" developed by Robert Slavin's team at Johns Hopkins University; "Atlas Communities," based primarily on the School Development Program (SDP) developed by James Comer; the "Audrey Cohen College System'' developed at the college of that name in New York City; "Co-NECT," a school design developed by a Cambridge (Massachusetts) consulting firm; the "Expeditionary Learning" program affiliated with Outward Bound; the "Modern Red Schoolhouse," designed by the Hudson Institute; and the "National Alliance for Restructuring Education" that cooperates with schools (e.g., in Kentucky) to restructure their resources to meet higher academic standards. Other "Whole School Design" models are those of the Edison Project, the E.D. Hirsch "Core Knowledge Curriculum," "Accelerated Schools" developed by Henry Levin at Stanford, and the "CMCD" (Consistency Management and Cooperative Discipline) program now being disseminated in Texas, Chicago, and Norfolk (Fashola and Slavin, 1998).

    None of the above listed designs can yet be said to be firmly established by research, in the sense that the achievement of students in schools following these models has been proven superior in replicated controlled empirical or experimental studies. However, many education policymakers are impressed with anecdotal evidence concerning the success of some or all of these programs, and with some limited empirical data that tends to confirm it. These designs will become more formidable if research continues to accumulate regarding their effectiveness. The resources specified by each of these designs (with the exception of the National Alliance for Restructuring Education, which does not promote a single design as such, but tailors its recommendations to individual affiliated schools) could be priced, and the sum might be considered the cost, at the school level, of an adequate education. One preliminary effort to estimate the costs of some of these programs was undertaken by Jennifer King (1994).

    A professional judgment approach that utilizes both consultation with local experts (as did Chambers and Parrish) and reliance on national research and whole school designs, was adopted in 1996 by a consulting group led by James W. Guthrie to calculate an adequate level of resources to be distributed to Wyoming school districts (Guthrie et al., 1997). The Wyoming approach differed from the earlier work of Chambers and Parrish in three important respects. First,

    Suggested Citation:"7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements." National Research Council. 1999. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6166.
    ×

    Guthrie et al. had been retained by the state legislature to design a system to fulfill a mandate of the Wyoming Supreme Court in Campbell v. Wyoming. The court prohibited the legislature from considering the total cost of a new education funding system, requiring that the "best" (i.e., adequate) system be funded regardless of cost: "lack of financial resources will not be an acceptable reason for failure to provide the best education system." Therefore, unlike the Alaska and Illinois experts for the RCM, the Wyoming professional expert groups were not asked to balance adequacy with expense in making their recommendations. Second, in defining adequacy, Guthrie et al. consulted with professional expert groups in Wyoming and nationally, but did not rely exclusively on the opinions of practitioners. Rather, these opinions were used to inform the consultants' views, based on national research and prior experience, regarding the resource elements necessary to produce adequate outcomes. In this respect, the Guthrie et al. approach is consistent with the ''whole school designs" analysis as described by Odden.

    Third, learning from the Illinois and Alaska experiences, Guthrie et al. did not use a complex statistical method (regression models) to calculate resource costs or cost adjustments, believing that they would be unlikely to be able to explain how these calculations were made in a manner that would be understood and accepted by nonprofessional policymakers, educators, and citizens. Rather, less sophisticated but more easily understandable methods, still based on economic theory, were employed.7

    Fourth, because the Wyoming legislature was ordered by the court to produce recommendations for adequacy on very short notice, Guthrie et al. calculated the costs only of the main elements of an adequate education, using less precise methods to estimate other costs. (For example, cost of utilities was calculated by taking the average cost of Wyoming districts in the prior year, with no attempt to specify resources necessary to reach a target temperature for classrooms when controlled for building insulation standards.)

    Guthrie et al. also adopted the professional judgment approach (as opposed to the Augenblick approach of inferring resources from observed adequate outcomes) not only because of concerns, described above, about poorly specified outcome measures in education generally, but because the state of Wyoming did not utilize a standardized achievement test like that in Ohio, Illinois, Mississippi, or Texas, even for narrowly defined academic outcomes, and so even poorly specified outcome data were not available. In many states without adequate assessments, the professional judgment method may be the only alternative available, without resorting to the sorts of indirect voter preference models suggested by Duncombe and Yinger.

    We prefer the professional judgment approach, not because we believe it is more precise than statistical or inferential methods (it may not be more precise), but rather because its imprecision is more transparent. When one econometric model finds a great difference in cost between two districts, while another model

    Suggested Citation:"7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements." National Research Council. 1999. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6166.
    ×

    finds a much smaller difference, policymakers are at a loss to understand what assumptions inside the "black box" create these conflicting results. But when prototypical resource models of adequacy have different costs, it is clear what the reasons for this difference are: one professional judgment model may propose a 3rd-grade class size of 15 students, for example, while another may propose a class size of 20. Policymakers, educators, and voters can then enter this debate, exercising their own best judgments about whether the research evidence on the benefits of smaller class sizes in the early grades is sufficiently persuasive to justify the additional cost. As this research evidence advances, the professional judgment method will be able to improve the precision of its results.

    For now, the professional judgment method makes explicit what more statistical methodologies tend, unwittingly, to hide: As the Rhode Island Supreme Court stated in a recent adequacy decision, "what constitutes an 'equal, adequate, and meaningful' [education] is 'not likely to be divined for all time even by the scholars who now so earnestly debate the issues'" (quoted in Minorini and Sugarman, Chapter 6 in this volume).

    Nevertheless, even after having expressed our preference for the professional judgment approach, principally because of limitations inherent in black box statistical approaches and the limitations of many standardized measures of student outcomes, we acknowledge that the professional judgment approach is itself imperfect. It suffers from the possibility of not being reliable. Will double panels arrive at similar conclusions when provided with similar information? In the Wyoming circumstances described below, two panels, operating 6 months apart, did arrive at similar judgments. However, this is a sample size far too small to arrive at a conclusion regarding the utility of the professional judgment process in every setting.

    Also, when professional panels make judgments, there is always the risk of conflicts of interests. This would be so whether the panels include physicians, attorneys, engineers, or educators. "Adequate" may be defined by panel members with an eye toward their own circumstances and the personal consequences for them of arriving at particular "adequate" revenue levels. And, of course, one cannot be absolutely sure of the basis of their professional judgment in such matters. In effect, each professional panel participant is his or her own "black box," the internal machinations of which are not immediately transparent.

    In the following pages, we describe the Wyoming professional judgment approach, to illustrate how our methods unfold in practice.

    Establishing A Definition Of Adequate By Professional Judgment In Wyoming

    Guthrie et al., the Wyoming consultants, operated with two waves of independent panels of education experts. The first wave was comprised of Wyoming education experts. Its principal objective was to identify the components of an

    Suggested Citation:"7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements." National Research Council. 1999. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6166.
    ×

    instructional system which could deliver an adequate education. These expert panels were assembled multiple times to develop and verify "prototypical" schools and the instructional components within such schools capable of delivering the Wyoming legislature's specified basket of education services and knowledge. The second wave of expert panels was comprised of regional educational experts. Included were principals, superintendents, and other practitioners from states surrounding Wyoming and exhibiting similar economic and geographic profiles—rural, agricultural, and extractive mineral-intensive. It was subsequently convened to verify that the delivery components in the prototypical schools designed by the initial expert panels could indeed achieve the instructional objectives specified by the legislature in its "basket" of education goods and services.

    The first wave of experts assembled was comprised of three educator panels, one each for elementary, middle, and secondary schools. These were selected from among experienced and qualified teachers, pupil personnel professionals, and administrators employed in Wyoming's 49 local school districts.8

    Instructional Strategies and Their Implications for Resource Allocation

    Panelists were informed repeatedly that consultants would not restrict their creativity or decision-making freedom. However, experts were also informed that consultants, at least preliminarily, were predisposed toward a seven-pronged instruction and resource allocation strategy for elementary schools. (Similar exercises, not discussed here in detail, were carried out for middle and high schools as well.) The seven-pronged elementary strategy, which was adopted and refined by the expert panels, included the following:

    (1)  

    Early grade resource intensity improves student outcomes. Guthrie and his associates contended to the expert panels that inverting the conventional resource allocation pyramid was strategically important. Conventionally, a substantially greater amount is spent by public schools on secondary than on primary school students. In 1997, the national public school pupil-teacher ratio was 14.9 in secondary schools and 19.0 in elementary schools (National Center for Education Statistics, 1998:Table 64). This spending pattern is principally a product of smaller classes and a more specialized set of course offerings in high school. Also, high school students usually have available to them a wider range of higher cost extracurricular activities. The Guthrie team believed that, within reasonable boundaries, this imbalance could and should be redressed, and that additional elementary level school resources, appropriately distributed, would be a better investment. By spending more, appropriately, early on, consultants believed that (1) a better learning foundation could be constructed from which students could then benefit in the remainder of their schooling and (2) more intense resources, in the particular form of smaller regular classes for elementary students, would

    Suggested Citation:"7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements." National Research Council. 1999. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6166.
    ×

       

    enable their teachers more productively to identify and cope successfully with exceptional students.

    Consultants in Wyoming took the Tennessee class size experimental results to be among the most powerful and credible research results available in education (Mosteller, 1995; Krueger, 1997). The fact that small class sizes (15 and 16 students per instructor) utilized in the Tennessee experiment resulted in higher and sustained levels of student achievement in the early elementary grades, particularly for low-income students, was a finding that the consultants forcefully brought to the attention of the Wyoming expert panels. The panels found this theory persuasive, and the result was a prototypical elementary school instruction model based upon average class sizes of 16, and overall pupil/teacher ratios of 14.4 per professional. These are among the most favorable pupil/professional ratios to be found anywhere in the nation, even among states spending substantially larger amounts of money per pupil.

    (2)  

    Small classes can more productively accommodate exceptions. The conventional pattern by which American public schools cope with exceptional students is through categorical aid programs which provide additional resources for differential treatment. Disabled students, low-income students, gifted students, and those whose proficiency in English is lacking are often pulled from classrooms and provided with some variety of specialized instruction. Wyoming consultants were unconvinced that this model is the most effective. Certainly, for severely handicapped students, it may be necessary. However, in other instances it can be stigmatizing to the child to be identified as exceptional and it may be instructionally inefficient to depend upon pull-out programs. The small class sizes contained in the Wyoming prototypical model, particularly in the primary grades, were intended to enable a classroom teacher, with appropriate professional training, to identify students in need of extra assistance and provide such assistance herself or himself. Additional school-wide resource teachers were funded as a supplement to regular classroom resources, but without specific categorical designations. The Wyoming instructional prototypes depend upon the classroom as the first bulwark against exceptional children either falling through the instructional cracks or obtaining stigmatizing and inappropriate treatments.

    (3)  

    Small elementary schools are generally better than large schools. The Guthrie team also suggested to the Wyoming panel participants that, all things being equal, elementary schools of approximately 200 to 400 students were more conducive to learning than larger schools (Guthrie, 1979). Experts concurred, and the Wyoming elementary prototypes are constructed around an abstraction of 288 pupils in grades K-5. This number results from having a total of six (conventional) grade levels with three classes per grade level. Class sizes are assumed to be 15 for grades K-3 and 18 for grades 4 and 5. Multiple sections at each grade level were thought to be important in the event parents wanted to have a choice among instructors at any grade level, and to allow school administrators to assign

    Suggested Citation:"7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements." National Research Council. 1999. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6166.
    ×

       

    teachers to children with some flexibility to match complementary teaching and learning styles.

    (4)  

    Professional development enhances teacher effectiveness. Deriving maximum benefit from small classes and small schools necessitates that individual teachers possess sophisticated professional knowledge and, in many cases, different training from that possessed by many regular classroom teachers today. To take advantage of the small-class model effectively, a teacher must be informed not only about instruction, but also about how to diagnose early signs of learning disability or language deficiency and about how to tailor appropriate instruction to special needs. Because of the added demands in this model upon elementary classroom teachers, the prototypical model is rich in resources for the in-service staff development of teachers.

    (5)  

    Remote identification of exceptionality is imprecise. Policymakers understand that some children are disabled, gifted, non-English speaking, at-risk, etc. However, practical decision tools for identifying such students are blunt and imprecise. Those at a school or in a classroom are best suited to make such judgments. This poses a challenge for policymakers. If those close to students are responsible for the identification, how can policy avoid incentives for such professionals to over-identify special needs children, generating more categorical revenue than is needed to constitute an adequate resource level?

    Wyoming consultants' answer to this challenge was, in the first instance, to eliminate categorical funding procedures to the extent possible, and instead to rely upon a "census based" pupil identification system. Here the statewide frequency of "high incidence" categories of exceptional students is assumed to hold for any particular school district. For example, in Wyoming, 3 percent of students are assumed in the consultant-recommended model to be gifted. All school districts then receive a small amount of additional resources for extra supplies, field trips, etc., for 3 percent of their enrolled students. Beyond this small amount of additional resources, however, the small class sizes funded in the model ensure that gifted children receive the specialized instruction they require in the regular classroom. Actual identification of individual gifted students, and the eventual prescription of more intense services for them, is left to the discretion of local educators, with classroom teachers having primary responsibility.

    A similar approach was recommended by Wyoming consultants for the funding of low-cost disabled student services. The recommendation to the legislature is that a uniform percentage of children with mild disabilities be funded in each district as part of an expanded regular program. (However, because some districts in Wyoming are so small that an expected uniform percentage of children with mild disabilities might not apply, in the event a district believes it has a greater proportion of students than the state-funded figure in any exceptional student category, it should have the right to appeal to the State Education Department for additional funds.) In the case of severe disabilities, which occur in school districts with unpredictable regularity, it was recommended that the traditional

    Suggested Citation:"7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements." National Research Council. 1999. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6166.
    ×

       

    categorical funding approach be retained, with the state reimbursing the full costs of these low-incidence, high-cost services, once the disabilities were identified.

    (6)  

    Concentrations can provoke added costs. As noted, a final recommendation has not yet been made regarding the amount of additional resources, if any, districts should receive for a normally expected incidence of mildly learning disabled students. Because funding was provided for exceptionally small class sizes and intense professional development, we anticipate that these resources would be less than are traditionally allocated for special services. Also, we anticipate that a normally expected incidence (in Wyoming) of other special needs students (for example, at-risk students) can also be provided for without additional resources—small class sizes, school-wide resource teachers, and intense professional development being sufficient. But whereas the overall strategy assumes that small classes and well-trained professionals can cope with the conventional incidence of exceptional students, disproportionate concentrations of such students can result in challenges beyond the capacity of classroom teacher and individual school officials to cope. Hence, a concentration or threshold funding strategy was devised to compensate districts or schools in which the proportion of Limited English Proficient (LEP) or Economically Disadvantaged Students (EDS) exceeded the statewide average by more than 150 percent. 9 Only where such thresholds are breached was a categorical program recommended, in which each identified student earns for the district involved a higher per-pupil revenue amount.

    In an important respect, however, this method unavoidably funds education in excess of an adequate level. This is because of the role played by federal funding, a role that must be addressed if states, for the first time, begin to require that school districts provide an adequate education using state and local resources alone. The Wyoming Supreme Court, for example, required that money be allocated to districts based on the actual costs experienced by these districts, including the greater costs which may be entailed in the education of economically disadvantaged or racial minority students. The court required the legislature to guarantee to districts full reimbursement for these additional costs.

    However, this requirement (and, in consequence, the consultants' model) conflicts with the federal Title I requirement that federal funds supplement, but do not supplant, state and local funds. If the Wyoming adequacy funding formula prescribes state-guaranteed resources necessary to educate disadvantaged children, and if Title I funds then supplement these amounts, districts with disadvantaged children will receive more than their actual costs of educating these children, once Title I funds have been added to the state-guaranteed adequate amounts. If, on the other hand, the amount of Title I funds available in any year is deducted from the state guarantee to districts, this will conflict with the "supplement-not-supplant" language of the federal program.

    Clearly, the most desirable policy, and the policy most in accord with the

    Suggested Citation:"7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements." National Research Council. 1999. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6166.
    ×

       

    spirit of the Title I requirement, is, paradoxically, the alternative that conflicts with the literal requirements of federal law. If a state formula that guarantees adequacy truly compensates districts for the higher costs of educating disadvantaged children, the state will accomplish the Congressional purpose of Title I when it applies its Title I allotments toward this compensation. The Congressional "supplement-not-supplant" language was clearly designed to prevent districts from applying Title I funding toward the regular cost of education and thus negating the supplemental intent of the law. The "supplement-not-supplant" language was not written in anticipation of a state's assumption of responsibility for the extra costs entailed by a disadvantaged student population. Permitting a state that assumes this responsibility to apply Title I funding to its own commitment would be fully in accord with the spirit and intent of the "supplement-not-supplant" provision, provided the state defines this new commitment consistent with minimal federal standards for Title I funding.

    To resolve this dilemma, the best public policy for a state implementing an adequacy formula would be to obtain a waiver from U.S. Department of Education that would permit the state to apply Title I funds to the state's commitment to districts, based on a demonstration by the state to the Department of Education that disadvantaged students are being given resources that supplement and do not supplant the resources given to regular students, and that these supplemental resources are at least equal to the resources provided by Title I funding. In other words, in the Wyoming case discussed here, the state should be able to show that class sizes and professional development resources were funded at levels that took account of the needs of Title I-eligible children. In the absence of such a waiver, the model provides a more-than-adequate funding level.

    (7)  

    Those closest to students should make most instructional decisions . Whereas the prototypical model is comprised of instructional components constructed by education experts, it is still an abstraction constructed by individuals remote from the day-to-day circumstances of teachers who interact with particular students. Out of a belief that those who actually instruct students should have maximum professional discretion in determining strategies and tactics, the funding model recommended by the consultants in Wyoming deliberately places the prototypically generated resources into a "block grant." This mechanism attempts to restore as much conventional local control to Wyoming school districts as a Supreme Court decision will permit, but also is intended to enhance the professional discretion of local officials and professional educators.

    Thus, the prototypical models created by the Guthrie group with its expert panels were created only for the purpose of pricing each resource in the model so that a total per-pupil spending level, deemed sufficient to produce the adequate basket of educational outcomes, could be allocated to school districts for the number of children they enrolled. The consultants frequently emphasized, and the legislature subsequently endorsed, the principle that no district should be required to spend the per-pupil funds it receives in a manner that reproduces the

    Suggested Citation:"7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements." National Research Council. 1999. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6166.
    ×

       

    prototypical school models. Nothing in the legislation based on the consultants' report, for example, restricts schools in their grade groupings or in their class sizes. Individual schools can create classes which are larger or smaller, depending upon how they choose to allocate their block grant resources. Because these choices will not affect the total size of the block grant, districts must exercise choices and determine priorities. A district choosing to pay higher salaries than the model recommends will probably be required to have larger classes to offset the cost of higher salaries, and a district choosing even smaller class sizes in selected grades than the model recommends will probably have to increase class sizes in other settings in order to stay within its total block grant. However, while districts are not required to spend block grants as the prototypical models recommend, it would not be unreasonable to expect state regulators to scrutinize especially carefully those districts whose performance appears to be notoriously low while spending resources in radically different ways from the prototype.10 And, of course, while the finance block grant carries no requirements for particular spending strategies, the state department of education may have other rules and regulations (about course offerings, curriculum, etc.) that, in effect, restrict the freedom of districts to spend money as they please.

    Tables 7-2 through 7-4 display the elementary, middle, and high school prototypes recommended by Guthrie et al. to the Wyoming legislature.

    Directly (And Indirectly) Assigning Costs To Adequacy

    Once prototypical models were specified, Wyoming consultants had to attach costs to each of the model's components. This procedure can be extraordinarily difficult in education. There is not a large and active market to assist in establishing costs. In other spheres where there are multiple suppliers and purchasers, more active agents of supply and demand, and greater competition, determining cost is more straightforward.

    Though great public attention has been focused lately on efforts to expand the private education sector to compete with public education, private education remains small relative to public education, and there is little immediate prospect that this relationship will change significantly. About 12 percent of U.S. elementary and secondary students are enrolled in private schools, a share substantially unchanged for half a century (National Center for Education Statistics, 1998). Even though the U.S. Supreme Court (Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 1926) countenanced private education as a means of meeting compulsory attendance statutes, states have chosen to provide education publicly and to subsidize it with public revenues. In most communities, the overwhelming share of the education supply is controlled by a single agency or a very few agencies. These local public school districts dominate the market for purchasing education components. For someone wishing to be a teacher, there are few prospective purchasers of that

    Suggested Citation:"7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements." National Research Council. 1999. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6166.
    ×

    TABLE 7-2 Wyoming Prototypical Model: Elementary School, K-5; Preliminary Costsa

    Description

    Units

    Salary Cost

    Salary-Driven Benefitsb

    Health Benefits

    Total Cost

    A.

    Personnel

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    1.

    Teachers

    20.00

    $31,758

    $6,034

    $3,641

    $828,660

     

    2.

    Substitute teachers (5%)

    0.90

    $10,500

    $803

     

    $10,173

     

    3.

    Aides (FTE)

    3.00

    $10,080

    $1,915

     

    $35,986

     

    4.

    Pupil support

    1.50

    $31,758

    $6,034

    $3,641

    $62,150

     

    5.

    Library/media Certif. librarian Media assistant Technician

    1.00

    $31,758

    $6,034

    $3,641

    $41,433

     

    6.

    School administration

    1.00

    $50,877

    $9,667

    $3,641

    $64,185

     

    7.

    Clerical/data entry

    2.00

    $16,000

    $3,040

    $3,641

    $45,362

     

    8.

    Operations

    2.50

    $20,000

    $3,800

    $3,641

    $68,603

    B.

    Supplies and Instructional Materials

     

     

     

     

     

    $61,950

    C.

    Equipment

     

     

     

     

     

    $37,837

    D.

    Food Service (varies by district)

     

     

     

     

     

     

    E.

    Categorical Aid

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    1.

    Special education(current expenditure placeholder)

     

     

     

     

    $152,514

     

    2.

    Limited English speaking(varies by district)

     

     

     

     

     

     

    3.

    Disadvantaged youth(varies by district)

     

     

     

     

     

     

    4.

    Gifted

     

     

     

     

    $1,296

    F.

    Student Activities

     

     

     

     

     

    $2,167

    G.

    Professional Development

     

     

     

     

     

    $26,352

    H.

    Assessment

     

     

     

     

     

    $7,200

    I.

    District Expenditure

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    1.

    Maintenance and operations

     

     

     

     

    $93,064

     

    2.

    Administration and miscellaneous expenditures

     

     

     

     

    $159,323

     

    3.

    Transportation

     

     

     

     

    $77,180

     

    Total Enrollment:

     

    288

     

    Total cost

     

    $1,775,433

     

     

     

     

     

    Adj.$/ADM

     

    $6,165

    a Assumptions: 288 students; class size 16; pupil/teacher ratio 14.4.

    b Salary Driven Benefits: Social Security, Medicare, Workers Comp, Unemp Ins, State Pension.

    SOURCE: Guthrie et al. (1997:92).

    Suggested Citation:"7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements." National Research Council. 1999. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6166.
    ×

    TABLE 7-3 Wyoming Prototypical Model: Middle/Jr. High, 6-8; Preliminary Costsa

    Description

    Units

    Salary Cost

    Salary-driven Benefitsb

    Health Benefits

    Total Cost

    A.

    Personnel

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    1.

    Teachers

    19.5

    $31,758

    $6,034

    $3,641

    $807,944

     

    2.

    Substitute teachers (5%)

    1.00

    $10,500

    $803

     

    $11,021

     

    3.

    Aides (FTE)

    3.00

    $10,080

    $1,915

     

    $35,986

     

    4.

    Pupil support

    3.00

    $31,758

    $6,034

    $3,641

    $124,299

     

    5.

    Library media

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Certificated librarian

    1.00

    $31,758

    $6,034

    $3,641

    $41,433

     

     

    Media assistant

    1.50

    $18,000

    $3,420

    $3,641

    $37,592

     

     

    Tech. assistant

     

     

     

     

     

     

    6.

    School administration

    1.00

    $50,792

    $9,650

    $3,641

    $64,083

     

    7.

    Clerical/data entry

    2.00

    $16,000

    $3,040

    $3,641

    $45,362

     

    8.

    Operations

    3.00

    $20,000

    $3,800

    $3,641

    $82,323

    B.

    Supplies and Instructional Materials

     

     

     

     

     

    $56,887

    C.

    Equipment

     

     

     

     

     

    $43,880

    D.

    Food Service (varies by district)

     

     

     

     

     

     

    E.

    Categorical Aid

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    1.

    Special education(current expenditure placeholder)

     

     

     

     

    $158,869

     

    2.

    Limited English speaking(varies by district)

     

     

     

     

     

     

    3.

    Disadvantaged youth(varies by district)

     

     

     

     

     

     

    4.

    Gifted

     

     

     

     

    $1,350

    F.

    Student Activities

     

     

     

     

     

    $16,179

    G.

    Professional Development

     

     

     

     

     

    $27,450

    H.

    Assessment

     

     

     

     

     

    $7,500

    I.

    District Expenditure

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    1.

    Maintenance and operations

     

     

     

     

    $112,500

     

    2.

    Administration and miscellaneous categories

     

     

     

     

    $165,961

     

    3.

    Transportation

     

     

     

     

    $80,396

     

    Total Enrollment:

     

    300

     

    Total cost

     

    $1,921,014

     

     

     

     

     

    Adj.$/ADM

     

    $6,403

    a Assumptions: 300 students; class size 20; pupil/teacher ratio 15.4.

    b Salary Driven Benefits: Social Security, Medicare, Workers Comp, Unemp Ins, State Pension.

    SOURCE: Guthrie et al. (1997:93).

    Suggested Citation:"7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements." National Research Council. 1999. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6166.
    ×

    TABLE 7-4 Wyoming Prototypical Model: High School, 9-12; Preliminary Costsa

    Description

    Units

    Salary Cost

    Salary-Driven Benefitsb

    Health Benefits

    Total Cost

    A.

    Personnel

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    1.

    Teachers

    41.18

    $31,758

    $6,034

    $3,641

    $1,706,066

     

    2.

    Substitute Teachers (5%)

    1.70

    $12,250

    $937

     

    $22,418

     

    3.

    Aides (FTE)

    6.00

    $10,080

    $1,915

     

    $71,971

     

    4.

    Pupil support

    5.00

    $31,758

    $6,034

    $3,641

    $207,165

     

    5.

    Library media

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Certificated librarian

    1.00

    $31,758

    $6,034

    $3,641

    $41,433

     

     

    Media assistant

    2.00

    $18,000

    $3,420

    $3,641

    $50,122

     

     

    Tech. assistant

     

     

     

     

     

     

    6.

    School administration

    1.00

    $53,071

    $10,083

    $3,641

    $66,795

     

     

     

    1.00

    $47,675

    $9,058

    $3,641

    $60,374

     

    7.

    Clerical/data entry

    5.00

    $16,000

    $3,040

    $3,641

    $113,405

     

    8.

    Operations

    5.00

    $20,000

    $3,800

    $3,641

    $137,205

    B.

    Supplies and Instructional Materials

     

     

     

     

     

    $164,765

    C.

    Equipment

     

     

     

     

     

    $97,266

    D.

    Food Service (varies by district)

     

     

     

     

     

     

    E.

    Categorical Aid

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    1.

    Special education(current expenditure placeholder)

     

     

     

     

    $317,738

     

    2.

    Limited english speaking(varies by district)

     

     

     

     

     

     

    3.

    Disadvantaged youth(varies by district)

     

     

     

     

     

     

    4.

    Gifted

     

     

     

     

    $2,700

    F.

    Student Activities

     

     

     

     

     

    $100,203

    G.

    Professional Development

     

     

     

     

     

    $58,500

    H.

    Assessment

     

     

     

     

     

    $15,000

    I.

    District Expenditure

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    1.

    Maintenance and operations

     

     

     

     

    $342,600

     

    2.

    Administration and miscellaneous categories

     

     

     

     

    $331,923

     

    3.

    Transportation

     

     

     

     

    $160,792

     

    Total Enrollment:

    600

     

    Total cost

     

    $4,066,441

     

     

     

     

     

    Adj.$/ADM

     

    $6,781

    a Assumptions: 600 students; class size 17; pupil/teacher ratio 17.

    b Salary Driven Benefits: Social Security, Medicare, Workers Comp, Unemp Ins, State Pension.

    SOURCE: Guthrie et. al. (1997:94).

    Suggested Citation:"7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements." National Research Council. 1999. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6166.
    ×

    individual's instructional services in most communities. If teachers are unionized, there may be even less of a market. Not only can one purchaser, a school district, dominate a local teacher market (a condition known technically as ''monopsony"), but one labor supplier, a teachers' union, can influence the price of teachers as well (a condition of monopoly). In the absence of a market, therefore, it is not possible to assume that actual costs of education inputs are equivalent to what school districts actually spend for those inputs. Expenditures may be too high, or too low, for adequacy.

    Teacher compensation typically comprises at least 50 percent of a school district's expenditures, and other professional compensation (for school administrators, counselors, librarians, etc.), tightly linked to that of teachers, comprises another 10 percent (Protheroe, 1997). When so major a portion of an industry's technology falls outside the boundary of an active market, assigning costs can be especially difficult. It is for this reason that, in translating "adequacy" to revenues, it is necessary to rely upon inferences from expenditures, not on expenditures themselves.

    As discussed earlier in this chapter, there is an increasingly important body of literature arguing that the number of statistical observations available in education is sufficiently large and varied that economic costs of school inputs generally and teacher salaries in particular can be calculated using statistical regression techniques (Chambers, 1995). However, as we suggested above, we are not persuaded that this approach can overcome the monopolistic and monopsonistic conditions common to almost all of the observations, that the number of observations is, in fact, sufficiently large in a state like Wyoming, or that statistical techniques can control for other characteristics (e.g., teacher quality) with sufficient precision (Rothstein and Smith, 1997; Mishel and Rothstein, 1997). Consequently, other methods of inferring real costs from observed expenditures must be utilized.

    In Wyoming, Guthrie et al. assigned costs to prototypical school instructional components through two principal strategies. One, where there was no market immediately in operation, they inferentially linked market cost to a prototypical component. Second, where a supply and demand situation could reasonably be determined to be operating, they took school-incurred prices for such items to be an accurate expression of market costs.

    Salaries of education professionals were the principal prototypical instructional components to which market costs could not easily be assigned. This condition was resolved by disaggregating teacher and other professional educator remuneration into four component categories: entry-level salaries, payments for college courses in excess of a bachelors degree, payments for seniority status, and fringe benefits.

    Guthrie et al. identified an appropriate level for entry-level teacher salaries by examining teacher salaries in the metropolitan communities where it was presumed conditions approaching labor market competition for college-educated

    Suggested Citation:"7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements." National Research Council. 1999. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6166.
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    workers were more likely to prevail. In these communities, entry-level teacher salaries may be more influenced by market forces. Teachers may have few options in offering their services to school districts, but if teacher salaries fall too low, potential teachers can seek employment in other services in these communities that typically employ college-educated labor. Conversely, a larger supply of college-educated labor can tip the district-union bargaining relationship in the district's favor. But because even these conditions can only make teacher labor markets more competitive, but not fully competitive, the teacher salary level in more developed professional labor markets must still be examined for reasonableness.

    For Wyoming, Guthrie et al. began by identifying the entry-level teacher salary in the most metropolitan region of the state, the Laramie-Cheyenne corridor, where relatively large numbers of professionals are employed in the state university, state government, and private professional business services. (Professional salaries in this corridor are also influenced by market conditions in nearby Fort Collins, Colorado, another university community with high-tech services.) This entry salary was then compared to the Wyoming statewide mean and median entry salaries, and all three were found to be nearly identical. The salary level was then compared to typical entry salaries in the seven states surrounding Wyoming, and the Wyoming entry salary was found to be higher than salaries in each of these states. Professional experts were then consulted to determine if the teachers attracted by this entry salary were sufficiently well qualified to deliver the required basket of educational services. After determining that this salary level was adequate to attract qualified personnel, it was then possible to assume this figure as a cost base for further salary adjustments. Such adjustments were calculated for the remaining three categories.

    In the case of payments for education credits beyond the bachelors degree, Wyoming's consultants concluded that it was the consensus among education researchers that payment for these credits (typically reported in "columns" on a salary schedule) had, in American education, ceased to be related to teacher quality. Districts rarely monitor the courses teachers take to earn these credits, and little or no effort is made to ensure that the knowledge and skills gained in these courses are those most needed to improve professional performance. Therefore, the column increments for taking courses had become a ritual in which teachers take courses in order to qualify for salary increments expected in a teacher-career path. The increments teachers are paid for taking courses are, in effect, a form of deferred compensation, added to the teacher entry-level salary. Therefore, Wyoming amounts currently paid for these credits were added to the entry-level teacher salary to create a prototypical model teacher salary. School districts were allocated per prototypical teacher the statewide mean amount for units in excess of a bachelors degree. Thus, there was no implicit recommendation in the model about whether school districts should use these funds in the traditional way (requiring teachers to take additional courses to earn salary points),

    Suggested Citation:"7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements." National Research Council. 1999. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6166.
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    should use them to fund an additional automatic salary progression (without course taking required), or should increase the starting salary and flatten the progression. (Of course, as noted above, the block grant philosophy of the model would not require districts to spend their resources as prescribed, even if the model in this case did make an implicit recommendation.)

    The adjustment made for teacher experience (seniority) was similar, but with an important difference. Research has found that there is additional quality gained from teacher experience (Guthrie et al., 1970), but these gains typically are realized within the first 10 years of teaching, and there is no evidence that teacher seniority increments (i.e., "steps" on a teacher salary schedule) are, on the whole, meaningfully related to gains in teacher quality. Thus, most teacher salary increments for "steps" are also a form of deferred compensation for beginning teachers. This conclusion, by itself, would have led to a recommendation only slightly different from that for credits. However, an additional consideration came into play with respect to salary "steps." While a district could affect the course-taking of its teachers by changing its compensation system, to a large extent the seniority distribution of teachers in a district is beyond the district's control. If districts are simply allocated per prototypical teacher, as in the case of course credits, the statewide mean amount paid for steps (years of service) on salary schedules, districts with unusually senior teachers would be penalized and districts with unusually junior teaching forces would receive more than that required to provide children with an adequate education. Because regional variations in economic conditions were the main cause of atypical seniority distributions (districts hire large numbers of teachers during periods of economic growth, and hire few during slowdowns), the model for Wyoming holds that teacher seniority is a condition beyond the control of districts and thus deserving of a district-by-district adjustment. Because the principle of this adjustment was that boom-and-bust economies (not unusual in mineral-dependent areas of Wyoming) can create abnormal distributions of teacher seniority, districts were not given an adjustment if they chose to hire more experienced teachers for openings (i.e., by hiring out-of-state teachers and crediting prior experience on their salary schedules) rather than beginning teachers. Rather, adjustments were only granted based on in-state teacher experience, dated from the teacher's initial hire date, regardless of prior experience.

    The model also prescribed a fringe benefit package (retirement, health insurance, etc.) and added the cost of this package to the model salary. Revenue amounts for other categories of professional personnel (counselors, librarians, and school and district administrators) were indexed to beginning teacher salaries via a scale developed from statewide expenditure data for each personnel category.

    Classified personnel salaries were assumed to be more market-sensitive than teacher salaries. Skills of custodians, bus drivers, clerical staff, cafeteria workers, etc. are similar to those sought by many private-sector employers. Hence, an

    Suggested Citation:"7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements." National Research Council. 1999. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6166.
    ×

    assumption of market cost appears reasonable in such instances. The quantity of resources specified in the prototypical model was therefore multiplied by the average salary currently paid for each type of classified employee, to generate a cost for such personnel.

    Because of the limited time available to deliver a final product to the legislature by the Supreme Court's deadline, the remaining costs of a prototypical school (approximately 15 percent of the total) were estimated based primarily on current averages, modified by input from the professional expert panels. This included instructional materials and other supplies; operations, maintenance and repair, and administrative (i.e., district) overhead. Thus, Wyoming statewide mean figures for these items were taken as initial estimates of both need and costs. In principle, however, an adequacy model could create a defined basket of such materials and supplies, a maintenance schedule, and an administrative model, and cost it. This, in fact, had been done by Chambers and Parrish for Alaska and Illinois in the early 1980s.

    For the Wyoming model, however, in the case of instructional materials and supplies, the current average amount was validated (and then adjusted somewhat) by consultation with professional expert groups. A more fully developed cost-based adequacy model would also require validation of operations and maintenance costs by, for example, a survey of the conditions of existing plant and equipment. Because school districts typically cut back first on necessary maintenance activities in response to fiscal stress, validation of these costs should be a priority for further study. Similarly, Guthrie et al. assumed that a statewide average ratio of administrative (district) overhead to other expenditures was a valid reflection of overhead costs. However, a study of Wyoming districts' administrative efficiency would also be necessary to gain greater confidence that current average expenditures reflect actual costs. The manner in which these personnel and nonpersonnel quantities and costs were allocated for a prototypical model is displayed in Tables 7-2 through 7-4.

    To recapitulate, following (while modifying) a method first developed by Chambers and Parrish in the early 1980s for establishing appropriate resource levels in Alaska and Illinois, Guthrie et al. designed an education system for Wyoming by positing absolute quantities of classroom and resource teachers, aides, support staff, supplies and materials, operations and maintenance, school administrators, and district administrative overhead deemed by Wyoming professional educators (and supported by national research) to be sufficient to provide an adequate education (in Wyoming terms, a legislatively determined "basket of educational goods") to Wyoming children. In the case of some of these inputs, however, necessary quantities were estimated by utilizing existing expenditures because there was insufficient time to fully investigate the adequacy of resource quantities or the efficiency with which they are currently used. Once the resource quantities were specified, prices were attached to each input. In the case of teachers and other professionals, a model compensation level was established by

    Suggested Citation:"7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements." National Research Council. 1999. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6166.
    ×

    taking into account labor market competition for college-educated labor, relative compensation levels in surrounding states, and professional opinion about compensation levels necessary to attract teachers of sufficient quality to deliver the "basket." In the case of most other inputs, prices were attached to the model by assuming that actual prices paid were market-determined and therefore reflected actual costs.

    These procedures resulted in a basic per-pupil cost of an adequate Wyoming education of about $6,580 (for 1995-96), excluding capital expenditures.11 It was the recommendation of the Wyoming consultant team, as well as the policy of the state, that this Wyoming per-pupil cost be distributed as a "block grant" to Wyoming school districts. By constructing prototypical models, Guthrie et al. determined that an adequate education could be delivered to Wyoming children by utilizing these specific quantities and combinations of resources, and it was the consultants' professional judgment that these quantities and combinations of resources were probably the best way to deliver the basket of educational goods. However, Guthrie et al. and the state also recognized that there may be other equally effective resource strategies that might deliver the basket. Permitting school districts to deploy resources as they see fit not only preserves the possibility that school districts may develop equally, or even more effective delivery systems, but also preserves a Wyoming tradition of local control in education, which is a political value that Wyoming wishes to maximize for its own sake. Therefore, while the prototypical model cost is calculated utilizing, for elementary schools for example, an average class size of 16 and an average teacher compensation cost of $41,433, districts may pay teachers more or less in compensation, offsetting these choices by increasing or decreasing class sizes or by trading salaries for benefits. While the model implies a recommendation that special needs children be integrated in regular classrooms where possible, districts can use the block of resources granted to them to increase regular class sizes in order to fund more individualized instruction for special needs children (except to the extent, of course, that this option is limited by federal law, as in the case of special education).

    Adjusting Adequacy For Pupil, School, And Regional Characteristics

    Once the Guthrie team had calculated a basic per-pupil block grant dollar amount for Wyoming districts, individual district circumstances required further adjustments in order to achieve true adequacy.

    Regional Cost Differences

    In the most important respect (professional salaries), the model's cost is based on prices in one metropolitan corridor (Laramie-Cheyenne), chosen because

    Suggested Citation:"7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements." National Research Council. 1999. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6166.
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    these communities have more competitive professional labor markets than elsewhere in the state. In other respects, model costs are based on statewide average prices.

    Yet the per-pupil costs so derived may not be applicable everywhere in the state, because the real costs of delivering the basket may vary from place to place. Therefore, a regional cost index must be applied to the model per-pupil amount before revenues are distributed to districts.

    If Wyoming had fully developed competitive markets throughout the state, Guthrie et al. would have recommended that this index be based primarily (to the extent of professionals' relative importance in the model) on professional salary relationships across the state. If the salaries of managers, accountants, engineers, and other professionals with college degrees are consistently higher in one of the state's communities, it should be expected that a teacher of comparable quality would be proportionally more expensive to attract and retain in that community. And the revenues to a school district in that community should then be adjusted to reflect that higher cost of professionals, in proportion to their relative importance in the prototypical model.

    This approach was not available, however, because there are few Wyoming communities with professional labor markets. In other states, where developed professional labor markets are more widespread, the approach may still not be available because data are generally unavailable on salaries by community and by occupation.12

    Because relative data on professional wages were not available, the Guthrie team could not estimate what it should cost to hire a teacher in one community, relative to another. As a second-best alternative, therefore, an attempt was made to determine what it would cost districts to provide teachers with comparable standards of living in different communities. And because there is no direct measure available of standards of living, a third-best alternative was attempted: How can districts provide teachers with an ability to purchase a comparable market basket of goods and services? A cross-sectional consumer price index was needed to make these comparisons.

    Fortunately, the state of Wyoming had in existence an official consumer price survey, designed for the purpose of specifying different poverty lines in different communities so that the state could forgive property taxes for homeowners whose incomes were below the poverty line. This survey, conducted every 6 months (and using product and service weights adapted from the Consumer Price Survey [Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1997]), resulted in a Wyoming Cost of Living Index (WCLI) which provided index numbers that could be applied to each school district in the state.

    Guthrie et al. proposed two controversial modifications to this WCLI before applying it to model per-pupil district allocations. First, medical care prices were eliminated from the index (and the remaining items were reweighted). This is because (1) the recommended cost-based school financing model fully funded

    Suggested Citation:"7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements." National Research Council. 1999. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6166.
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    health insurance as a benefit for school district employees; (2) insurance company premiums, which reimburse the bulk of employee health care consumption, did not vary from region to region within Wyoming; and (3) many Wyoming districts were too small for insurers to adjust premiums for regionally affected experience. (The Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Survey prices only the administrative costs of insurance companies, and treats all medical care as though it were directly purchased by consumers without intermediaries.) Therefore, there was no reason to increase (decrease) a school district's block grant because medical care prices in its community were higher (lower) than elsewhere, since the prices teachers faced would be relatively unaffected; teachers, if fully insured, would have as a relatively small share of their health care consumption the cost of deductibles, copayments, and other incidental payments that would be paid at prevailing community prices. The consultants' judgment was that the lesser inaccuracy was introduced by eliminating the medical care component than by including it.

    The second controversial modification was the failure to include the full cost of "housing" in the price index used to adjust education expenditures. Rent of shelter (or the rental equivalence of home ownership, or in Wyoming, mobile home ownership) represents a relatively large weight in consumer price indices. Nonetheless, this component was eliminated because it was felt that regional differences in rental prices primarily reflected differences in regional amenities, not differences in amortized costs of construction. This was one of the most difficult decisions to explain to the satisfaction of Wyoming policymakers, because it made common sense to many of them that if it costs more to rent housing in a community, a school district should compensate teachers for these higher housing prices.

    In Wyoming, the problem was reflected most starkly in the community of Jackson, located in Teton County, one of the nation's most beautiful resorts. Housing prices in Jackson are much higher than elsewhere in the state: with housing prices included, the Teton school district would have had an index number of 134.4; without rental housing equivalence prices, its index number was 117.9 (with Laramie-Cheyenne = 100, no other district had a with-housing index number higher than 107.1). Teton school district administrators complained that the high price of housing made it difficult if not impossible for them to hire and retain teachers, that teachers accepted positions only to quit after finding they could obtain housing only in trailer camps far away, and that only a regional cost adjustment that fully compensated the district for the higher housing prices its employees must pay would permit Teton to compete fairly with other districts for teachers.

    In response to this challenge, Guthrie et al. reviewed Teton school district data. To their surprise, they found that, with salaries not significantly higher than those paid elsewhere in the state, Teton had a lower teacher turnover rate than was typical in Wyoming. Remarkably, while Teton had experienced more rapid

    Suggested Citation:"7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements." National Research Council. 1999. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6166.
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    enrollment growth than the state as whole in recent years, the Teton district had a smaller percentage of junior teachers than the statewide average. Guthrie et al. have no firm explanation for these phenomena, but the possibility remains that the amenities of this community are so strong that they overcome the high costs of housing. Because prices generally are higher in Teton, even with rental housing removed from the WCLI, Teton will receive a geographic cost adjustment from the Guthrie et al. model that will entitle the district to about 20 percent more revenue than the typical Wyoming district will receive (compared to 34.4 percent more if calculated with rental prices included in the index). The Guthrie team remains concerned that this 20 percent bonus will further enhance Teton's ability to attract and retain teachers, and that the imprecision of this method of calculating geographic cost adjustments will have the perverse result of increasing the inequality of real resources available to Wyoming districts. This, however, is the opposite of the concern most frequently expressed by Wyoming policymakers who instinctively feel that Teton teachers should be fully compensated for higher prices in their community. The Guthrie et al. recommendation, however, was adopted by the legislature.

    Four other states (Colorado, Florida, Ohio, and Texas) presently distribute revenues to school districts after adjusting these revenues for estimated differences in geographic costs. Each utilizes a different method for calculating the adjustment, based on the state's geographic characteristics and data availability (Rothstein and Smith, 1997). However, nowhere, to our knowledge, has a state undertaken a systematic study of teacher quality to determine whether a geographic cost adjustment succeeds in equalizing resources available to students. This is a high priority for future research.

    Adjustment For Inflation

    Guthrie et al.'s calculation of prototypical model costs in Wyoming was based on data in the year prior to the model's implementation. For the model's recommendations to reflect the actual costs of adequacy in future appropriations for K-12 education, the legislature must adjust each of the inputs in the model for inflation.

    The WCLI could be used for this purpose as well, but Guthrie et al. recommended against this use, for two reasons. First, since William Baumol first explained the concept of the "cost disease" in labor intensive services, it has been widely accepted that school input inflation proceeds at a different rate from consumer price inflation (Baumol, 1967; Baumol et al., 1991; Rothstein and Miles, 1995). While it may not be the case in every year, school inflation will generally be more rapid than consumer price inflation, because manufactured products benefiting from technological improvements have greater relative importance in consumer purchases than in school purchases. On the other hand, a high proportion of school purchases are for professional labor, where opportunities

    Suggested Citation:"7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements." National Research Council. 1999. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6166.
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    for technological improvement are relatively limited (although not nonexistent, as attested by the use of aides for the less professional portions of teacher workloads during the last 20 years).

    Secondly, the WCLI would be unsuitable even if consumer price inflation were applicable to schools. This is because the WCLI, administered by a small Wyoming administrative department, is relatively unsophisticated in its price gathering. This is inevitable, given the budget and professional resources available to the state. Any consumer price survey requires numerous decisions about quality change and substitutability that are subject to error. In the case of a geographic cost adjustment, the WCLI provided the only available data, and so its use was recommended for this purpose. However, more sophisticated alternatives are available for estimating inflation.

    Guthrie et al. recommended that inflation in the professional compensation component of the prototypical model be estimated by using the Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Cost Index (ECI) components for professional/technical and managerial labor; that inflation in nonprofessional compensation be estimated by using the balance of the ECI; and that inflation in the nonpersonnel items be estimated by using a regional consumer price index produced by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As an alternative method of estimating non-personnel inflation, Guthrie et al. recommended that Wyoming explore the possibility of contracting with Research Associates of Washington to produce a nonpersonnel school input index tailored to the particular needs of the Wyoming model. Research Associates (Kent Halstead, principal) annually publishes a school price index comprised of separate indices for each input weighted by that input's relative importance in a 1975 base year (Research Associates of Washington, 1997). Guthrie et al. recommended not using this index for anything other than the limited purpose described (purchases of nonpersonnel goods and services) because of the dangers implicit in estimating actual inflation in the price of a service (i.e., teachers) when the prices are based on actual payments in a non-competitive market.

    One reasonably can speculate regarding the extent to which Wyoming, as a state, represents anything but Wyoming. The state is among the nation's least populous. It has only 100,000 school children, a population which is stable to slightly declining. It has only 48 school districts. It has an unusual proportion of school children in remote and sparsely populated areas. We could go on and describe more unique characteristics of Wyoming. However, we make no case that Wyoming or, for that matter, any state, is representative of the nation as a whole. In fact, even among heavily populated, mixed economy states such as California, Illinois, or Texas, the intense developmental and political history of school finance renders each a policy-unique situation. Rather, our point is that the features of the school finance system designed for Wyoming anticipate most of the characteristics and conditions that analysts and researchers will face in other states. Wyoming had to develop a "basket of expected educational outcomes,"

    Suggested Citation:"7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements." National Research Council. 1999. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6166.
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    a prototypical delivery system had to be designed, the characteristics of district and pupil variation had to be taken into account, and cost adjustments of all kinds had to be undertaken. In other state situations, solutions may be different depending upon state characteristics. These solutions will almost inevitably be more complex in more diversified states. We contend, nevertheless, that the dimensions on which solutions are sought are likely to be similar to the dimensions pursued in Wyoming.

    Unsolved Mysteries

    Attempting to define an "adequate' education and thereafter to translate such a definition into the reality of school finance has begun. No doubt, the beginning efforts described in the above sections of this chapter will appear unusually crude to twenty-first century education and finance experts who plow this ground. However, a contemporary decisionmaker, be it a judge or elected official, should understand fully that this translation is still a primitive endeavor, still far more of an art than a science. We do not yet have full consensus on the objectives of the education system, and in the unlikely event we ever do, we do not know how to measure our progress toward those objectives with complete precision. Further yet, we are unsure of a foolproof technology that will enable a school to instruct in a manner which will result in a guarantee of desired student performance. Finally, we are woefully short of the data regarding spending which will enable us accurately to assign costs to whatever instructional models emerge as sensible.

    While most Americans agree that public schools should provide students with knowledge and skills, our understanding of educational technology is undeveloped when it comes to linking necessary resource inputs to desired outcomes. Consider these issues, touched on very briefly in previous pages, to which we presently have few satisfying answers:

  • Defining adequacy must entail specifying resource levels minimally necessary to produce desired outcomes, not a level that wastes resources unneeded for this production. Yet even if we could determine resource levels that generally produce adequate outcomes, this level may be too generous if the resources are utilized inefficiently. For example, recent results from the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) reveal that American 4th graders perform, on average, at least as well, if not better than 4th graders in most comparable nations. The International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) confirmed in 1991 that American 9-year-olds read better than 9-year-olds almost anywhere in the world. But, according to the TIMSS, American 8th and 12th graders perform increasingly worse than their counterparts in math, and the IEA shows that American 17-year-olds' reading is also not up to par. Is this condition because, on average, we provide adequate resources to teach math and reading to 4th graders, but the resources for later grades are
  • Suggested Citation:"7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements." National Research Council. 1999. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6166.
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    inadequate? Or is it because, with adequate resources, our pedagogies and curricular designs for 4th graders are superior to those for older children? Or is it neither of these, and simply a case of the TIMSS being flawed, for example, being better aligned with the outcomes we seek in the 4th grade than the outcomes we seek for older children?

  • Do we assume, in funding an adequate education, that the level of resources necessary to produce adequate outcomes in reading are the same as those necessary to produce adequate outcomes in math? Are they the same as those necessary to produce an adequate quality of ''social ethics to facilitate compatibility with others in this society"?
  • To what extent should schools be held responsible for the specified outcomes, as opposed to other institutions? Educational policymakers have become aware of the need for more school resources to produce acceptable outcomes for children from economically disadvantaged families, but this awareness is still unsophisticated. Almost entirely unexplored are the relationships between school outcomes and the economic institutions that provide school graduates with economic opportunity. These relationships cannot be ignored if courts wish to require schools to enable graduates "to compete favorably with their counterparts in surrounding states." The competitiveness of a state's high school graduates is affected not only by these graduates' academic, social, and citizenship skills, but also by the state's economic infrastructure. A state with better-educated students may have more difficulty than surrounding states in attracting job-generating investments because its highways are inadequate or even because its climate does not provide the amenities sought by highly educated workers. Clearly, the adequacy of schools' resources cannot be measured solely, or even primarily, by the competitiveness of state industry, although educational preparation for work cannot be ignored either.
  • Public, and even scholarly debate about "standards" (i.e., adequate outcomes) suffers from a confusion between minimum and average goals, and between relative and absolute goals. This confusion becomes especially important if "adequacy" is defined as the resources necessary to produce "average" outcomes. Yet because it is so much easier to specify "adequacy" in norm-referenced terms, relatively little consensus exists regarding criterion-referenced adequacy, even in the basic skills of reading and math.
  • These problems make it difficult, if not impossible, to derive an understanding of resource adequacy from the outcomes we posit as minimally acceptable. The following examples illustrate why our understanding of outcomes is still too primitive to permit inferences about resource adequacy from this understanding. President Clinton has stated a standard that "all" 9-year-olds should read at a 4th-grade level. But a "4th-grade level" is the mean for today's 4th graders. There is invariably a distribution around this mean, so that if resources are adequate for the average 4th grader to read at a 4th-grade level, then these resources will still

    Suggested Citation:"7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements." National Research Council. 1999. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6166.
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    generate some 4th graders reading at the average level for 2nd graders, while some 4th graders will read at the average level for 6th graders. If what President Clinton means is literally that all 4th graders should read at least as well as the average 4th grader reads today, this probably means, given the inevitable distribution of outcomes, that the average 4th grader will have to read as well as today's average 6th or 7th grader (and even this standard will leave some 4th grade students, at the far left tail of the distribution, not meeting the minimum standard of today's average 4th grade level.)

    Norm-referenced standards, therefore, are ultimately disconcerting for calculation of adequate resources. And the efforts of the education policy community to develop criterion-referenced standards, which in principle are necessary if resource levels are to be attached, are still relatively undeveloped. Great attention has been paid to the analyses of NAEP scores by the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB). According to NAGB, for example, in reading, only 30 percent of 4th and 8th graders, and only 36 percent of 12th graders are "proficient." In math, only 21 percent of 4th graders, 24 percent of 8th graders, and only 16 percent of 12th graders are "proficient." Yet authoritative analyses of the NAGB performance standards have found them technically flawed and misleading. This makes them unsuitable for links to resource levels. The General Accounting Office found that considerably more students were probably "proficient" than the NAGB standards implied (U.S. General Accounting Office, 1993:31-32). A National Academy of Education panel concluded that the procedures by which these achievement levels had been established were "fundamentally flawed" and were "subject to large biases'' and the achievement levels by which few American students had been judged proficient were set "unreasonably high" (National Academy of Education, 1993:xxii, 148). The panel recommended to the Department of Education that NAEP Achievement Levels should not be used. In fact, the panel stated, continued use of these standards could set back the cause of education reform because it would harm the credibility of the NAEP test itself.13

    The logical problems inherent in attempting to develop an outcome standard from norm-referenced rather than criterion-referenced assessments are also implicit in Richard Murnane and Frank Levy's widely cited proposal that our standard be the ability to do math and to read at a 9th-grade level, among other competencies (Murnane and Levy, 1996). By definition, however, the average 9th-grade student now does math and reads at a 9th-grade level. What Murnane and Levy must mean is that schools must be reformed so that no high school graduate or dropout reads below the level that is now average for 9th graders. They cannot mean this in a literal sense, but unspecified is precisely what the left tail of the distribution must look like to be acceptable.

    In the absence of an inventory of occupational projections and related academic requirements, can outcome standards be inferred statistically? We think not. Card and Krueger have shown that investment in education is positively

    Suggested Citation:"7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements." National Research Council. 1999. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6166.
    ×

    related to earnings (Card and Krueger, 1996), but their approach cannot deduce an adequate level of earnings from which correlated academic achievement can be observed. As noted, absolute earnings levels are related to a wide variety of macroeconomic and labor market policies, of which educational investment is only one. While we know that better-educated adults have higher earnings than less-educated adults, this may be partly because education is used as a sorting mechanism.

    These difficulties in defining adequate outcomes are logically prior to the challenges of attaching input prices to these outcomes. Yet we know very little about how to address them. Meanwhile courts, legislators, and the public will continue to demand that we "put the cart before the horse" and estimate the price of adequacy before we truly know what it is.

    None of the preceding is intended to choke debate or impede the efforts of policymakers and analysts to design adequacy-based systems of school finance. Rather, these caveats are extended to those who might otherwise believe that determining what is adequate is a simple task of finding an able cost accountant and thereafter placing the numbers in the correct columns.

    Notes

    1.  

    As we note below, however, the second approach has been utilized without controls for student background characteristics. And one statistical analysis illustrative of the first approach (Duncombe and Yinger, Chapter 8 in this volume) utilizes a "voter preference/tax price" model to estimate adequate outcomes, without reference to tests or other measures of student performance.

    2.  

    How substantial are these differences? Let's make the simplistic assumption that the only important resources in education were teachers and other classroom inputs. Then, if a typical district in Wisconsin required resources for an adequate education sufficient to fund class sizes of 20, and if Reschovsky-Imazeki's analysis were correct, then Chamber's adjustment would give Milwaukee suburbs 28 percent more resources than needed, or resources sufficient for class sizes of about 14 students. If Chamber's analysis were correct, then Reschovsky-Imazeki's adjustment would give Milwaukee suburbs 28 percent fewer resources than needed, and would only give these suburbs resources sufficient for class sizes of about 26 students.

    3.  

    This methodology, based on an empirical search for districts with adequate outcomes, is the implicit theory of the New Jersey Supreme Court in Abbott v. Burke (1990), in many ways the most radical of state court adequacy decisions. The Court's reasoning suggested a requirement that (poor) districts with low outcomes (including test scores) must be able to achieve high outcomes by spending what (rich) districts with high outcomes spend.

    4.  

    Personal communication, R. Greenwald, March 19-20, 1998.

    5.  

    Although the Augenblick method in Ohio and the Cooper method in

    Suggested Citation:"7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements." National Research Council. 1999. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6166.
    ×

       

    Illinois adjust the calculation of adequate resources to be distributed to high-poverty districts, the adequacy level itself is initially calculated in both methods by observing high-scoring districts in an investigation where all districts, regardless of student poverty intensity, must score at the same proficiency level, on average, to be considered.

    6.  

    There is too great a probability of unusual circumstances to justify inclusion beyond these distribution points.

    7.  

    Intra-state costs adjustments were the most controversial of consultants' recommendations, and citizens, legislators, and the court were eventually persuaded of the appropriateness of these adjustments only because they did not rely on mathematical manipulations beyond the skill of policymakers.

    8.  

    Wyoming districts were subsequently reduced to a statewide total of 48, as a consequence of district consolidation.

    9.  

    In 1995 in Wyoming, 11 percent of children 5-17 years old were in poverty (National Center for Education Statistics, 1998: Table 20), and fewer than 2 percent were identified as having Limited English Proficiency (U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, 1997: Table 2.3). A 150 percent cut-off might not be appropriate in other states where the base percentages of at-risk students were higher.

    10.  

    And, as Andrew Porter (1995) has noted, as performance standards become more sophisticated, it will become more difficult to separate them from "opportunity to learn" standards, even in high-performing districts. It is one thing to say that a state can spend resources however it wishes, provided its scores on standardized tests are adequate. However, it will not be so simple for a state to separate a requirement for adequate performance (assessed with portfolios and projects) from the way resources are arrayed to deliver instruction to fulfill such standards. "The more structure required of a portfolio, the more intrusive the portfolio becomes" (p. 23).

    11.  

    Because in each state, different expenditures were excluded for consideration from an adequacy model, and because of inter-state cost differences, this adequacy level cannot be compared to the $3,930 Augenblick deems adequate in Ohio, or the $4,225 Cooper deems adequate in Illinois, or to whatever amount is eventually deemed adequate in Mississippi, as calculated by an inferential model; or to the $6,331 Reschovsky and Imazeki deem adequate in Wisconsin, as calculated by the statistical model. (Duncombe and Yinger do not state a dollar figure for adequacy in New York, but presumably it would be whatever the district with an index number of 100 spends.)

    12.  

    In many states, the only relative wage data available are those required to be reported by the U.S. Department of Labor, and these data display average wages by industry sector, but not by occupation. Thus, reported wages in the finance sector aggregate wages of banking executives, tellers, and janitors, for example. In some states, where broad regional occupational wage data are available, they are not provided at the community level, do not include total compensation

    Suggested Citation:"7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements." National Research Council. 1999. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6166.
    ×

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    Suggested Citation:"7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements." National Research Council. 1999. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6166.
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    Suggested Citation:"7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements." National Research Council. 1999. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6166.
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    Suggested Citation:"7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements." National Research Council. 1999. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6166.
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    Page 253
    Suggested Citation:"7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements." National Research Council. 1999. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6166.
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    Page 254
    Suggested Citation:"7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements." National Research Council. 1999. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6166.
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    Page 255
    Suggested Citation:"7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements." National Research Council. 1999. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6166.
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    Page 256
    Suggested Citation:"7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements." National Research Council. 1999. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6166.
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    Page 257
    Suggested Citation:"7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements." National Research Council. 1999. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6166.
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    Suggested Citation:"7 Enabling "Adequacy" to Achieve Reality: Translating Adequacy into State School Finance Distribution Arrangements." National Research Council. 1999. Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6166.
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    Spending on K-12 education across the United States and across local school districts has long been characterized by great disparities--disparities that reflect differences in property wealth and tax rates. For more than a quarter-century, reformers have attempted to reduce these differences through court challenges and legislative action. As part of a broad study of education finance, the committee commissioned eight papers examining the history and consequences of school finance reform undertaken in the name of equity and adequacy. This thought-provoking, timely collection of papers explores such topics as:

    • What do the terms "equity" and "adequacy" in school finance really mean?
    • How are these terms relevant to the politics and litigation of school finance reform?
    • What is the impact of court-ordered school finance reform on spending disparities?
    • How do school districts use money from finance reform?
    • What policy options are available to states facing new challenges from court decisions mandating adequacy in school finance?
    • When measuring adequacy, how do you consider differences in student needs and regional costs?
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