Legal Issues in School Finance

Disparities in spending per pupil, whether or not linked to local measures of fiscal capacity, have been the subject of court suits since the early 1970s.  Suits have pushed against differences in spending as well as differences in spending that are related to either local property wealth per pupil or household income, relying on constitutional provisions in both the U.S. Constitution (the equal protection clause) and state constitutions (both equal protection and education clauses).

More recent suits have addressed school finance adequacy, i.e., whether the minimum level of state supported school spending is high enough to allow every school to provide every student an equal opportunity to achieve to state proficiency standards, which today in nearly all states are college and career ready standards.

See Chapter 2 of the fifth edition of our text book, Allan Odden and Lawrence O. Picus, School Finance: A Policy Perspective, New York: McGraw Hill (2014) for a further discussion of legal issues in school finance.

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