Equal Educational Opportunity, Hollow Victories, and the Demise of School Finance Equity Theory: An Empirical Perspective
Cornell Law School
Washington University Law Quarterly, Vol. 75, No. 1, 1997.
This paper considers the efficacy of judicial efforts to address constitutional concerns relating to the equal educational opportunity doctrine through school finance litigation from an empirical perspective. Specifically, a technique common in the econometric literature (interrupted time-series analysis) is used to assess the impact of successful early school finance equity court decisions and, in particular, their relation to changes in state educational spending levels. No independent, positive relation between successful court decisions and increased state educational spending is found. That is, even successful equity school finance lawsuits did not alter educational spending in ways most likely sought by plaintiffs. These results at once help explain the relatively recent (1989) shift in school finance litigation theory (from equity to adequacy) and, more generally, underscore the complex and understudied relation between court decisions and educational policy as well as legal impact. The results suggest that although early successful equity-based school finance lawsuits might yield some important direct and indirect effects, one commonly sought after (and assumed) direct effect -- increased educational spending -- was not detected.
JEL Classification: I22, I28, K39Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: November 21, 1996
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