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social disadvantages facing individuals whose educational achievement is low. One manifestation of this broader concern has been the emergence of the comparatively new legal paradigm of educational adequacy which emphasizes the adequacy, rather than the distribution, of resources available to districts and schools and of the educational outcomes they produce. This new paradigm of educational adequacy has spread rapidly in recent years and now serves as the foundation for many current court cases and legislative deliberations.
Finance inequities and the linkages among education finance, school performance, and academic achievement were among the concerns that led Congress to ask the National Research Council to study the theory and practice of financing elementary and secondary education by federal, state, and local governments in the United States. The National Research Council responded by establishing the Committee on Education Finance. The key question posed to the committee was: How can education finance systems be designed to assure that all students achieve high levels of learning and that education funds are raised and used in the most efficient and effective manner possible?
Although funding disparities and the adequacy of funding levels, which are the central concern of this volume, are one part of the puzzle requiring examination, they must be considered in connection with other important questions about the education system. For example, while more equal funding across schools and school districts might be desirable, it does not assure that funds would be directed productively toward the goal of academic achievement, that students from advantaged and disadvantaged backgrounds would have equal opportunities, or that the educational opportunities for all students would be adequate to achieve the desired outcome of their full participation in the civil and economic life of the community. Efforts to equalize spending in order to enhance educational opportunities for disadvantaged students have also raised other concerns, such as how much funding for education is sufficient for a state to meet its educational obligations.
In developing our study, the committee had to consider an extensive amount of research literature on educational finance and educational reform. To help with this task, we have commissioned a number of papers. This volume presents a selected subgroup of these papers, ones that focus explicitly on issues pertaining to equity and adequacy in the U.S. education system. The authors examine the legal, economic, and political forces that influence the response of the education finance systems to shifting social concerns about racial discrimination, tax reform, wealth differences, and the problems of inner cities in American society.
The committee has chosen to publish these eight papers in advance of its final report so they may assist not only us but also the policymakers and scholars who grapple continuously with questions of equity and adequacy of school finance formulas. The papers make a significant and timely contribution to the literature on school finance reform by revealing important trends in the long struggle to reduce disparities and equalize educational opportunities. They suggest that we