. "6 Educational Adequacy and the Courts: The Promise and Problems of Moving to a New Paradigm." Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance: Issues and Perspectives. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 1999.
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be achieved in favor of the poorer districts. In this way we can see how state courts may feel themselves comfortably able to announce that a state system of education is both constitutionally required and clearly does not exist.
What would be enough for the state to meet this conception of the constitutional requirement is a far more complicated matter, however. Indeed, that problem may well explain why some state courts have rejected educational adequacy claims, finding, in effect, that the state constitution's education clause creates no judicially determinable and enforceable standard. But many other courts, at least so far, seem undaunted by this prospect—at least not daunted enough to refrain from condemning the system as it stands.
In thinking about what eventually is to be required by the state constitution, one possibility, of course, is that the courts will identify a substantive standard against which the system will be measured. Assume that, as an abstract matter, the standard will be what we have been calling a "high-minimum"—in the sense that most people would agree that considerable education is increasingly required to become a full participant in today's economic and political life. But that is too abstract. What, more precisely, will be the content, inputs, or outcome goals of that high-minimum? Perhaps the courts will look to what their own legislatures already have said in statutes and regulations that spell out what educational outcomes are expected of students at various levels of their education. Certainly the drive for state standards and assessments geared to those standards will suggest this as a plausible option. Fearful that a recalcitrant legislature might try to thwart the court's efforts by, in effect, "dumbing down" the state goals, the judges might instead look to a national consensus as to what sort of education today's youths need for success. Many adequacy decisions that have ticked off a list of educational goals, in effect, tap into the judges' sense of today's collective wisdom on this matter.
But, of course, under any of these approaches this first step would only help identify the goals of the educational system. Still to be decided would be whether the opportunities provided are fairly calculated to permit pupils to reach those goals. This, it seems, would inevitably put the judges in the middle of a debate between "experts" paraded into court by both plaintiffs and defendants.
Yet, just because the experts will disagree does not mean that they can't provide the judges with helpful insights. For example, James Guthrie and Richard Rothstein have developed a thoughtful methodology for identifying an "adequate" education that they have already applied in more than one state. Simply put, they gather school professionals together to discuss and reach consensus on what inputs are needed for an adequate education and then they price those inputs. If, for example, the professionals decide (based upon research or experience) that elementary school class size of 15 is needed, they plug that in. If the professionals decide that if there are so many disadvantaged kids an extra classroom aide is needed, they plug that in. They also try to adjust for differential wage costs and the like from place to place. In this way they can build up to a