See Berne and Stiefel (1979) for more detail on how to apply equity concepts to state finance plans.


Generally this is done by calculating tax burdens as a percentage of ability to pay, although researchers have also used other measures such as regression coefficients relating burden to ability to pay or Gini type coefficients.


Economists use three alternative concepts of incidence or burden—absolute, balanced budget, and differential. We are discussing absolute burden here. See Rosen (1992:277) for the differences among the three alternatives.


If the courts or legislatures used public finance ideas, the remedies proposed or legislated for taxpayers would be quite different. Equal tax rates for equal spending (a school finance principle) does not translate into particular patterns of public finance incidence such as progressive, regressive, or proportional tax burden, and each proposed school finance formula would have to be studied from the public finance viewpoint. Such linkages of school finance equity to public finance equity are beyond the scope of this chapter.


Advocates of school-based budgeting have suggested that states fund schools directly rather than through the intermediary of districts. Some charter school funding works this way.


Kenneth Strike argues that the shift to outputs, combined with research findings that much of the variation in outputs is due to factors outside the school environment, results in an equity concept that is built on the schools compensating for outside-the-school factors in order to reach adequacy. (See Strike, 1988, and personal communication.)


For example, Coleman et al. defined five alternative ways to measure equal opportunity in his Equality of Educational Opportunity report (Coleman et al., 1966). They note that "as a consequence, in planning the survey it was obvious that no single concept of equality of educational opportunity existed and that the survey must give information relevant to a variety of concepts" (Coleman, 1968:16-17). This chapter is a review of school finance equity since 1970. Our objective is not to define or redefine equal opportunity, but to analyze what others have written.


We thank an anonymous reviewer for this idea.


The other two themes cited by both Wise and Enrich as important historically are wealth in criminal justice rights cases (the indigent criminal) and mathematically equivalent treatment in legislative reapportionment cases (voter equality).


One of the most famous and controversial findings of the report was "… that schools bring little influence to bear on a child's achievement that is independent of his background and general social context; and that this very lack of an independent effect means that the inequalities imposed on children by their home, neighborhood, and peer environment are carried along to become the inequalities with which they confront adult life at the end of school" (Coleman et al., 1966:325).

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