Tag: Campaign for Fiscal Equity


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Are Adequacy and Equity Funding Suits On the Comeback? Oh Yeah!


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Yesterday, after analyzing a school funding adequacy case in Washington State, Education Sector analyst Robert Manwaring whether such torts (and their twins, funding equity suits) were on the comeback. The…

All about the Benjamins: Equity and adequacy lawsuits may be on the comeback

Yesterday, after analyzing a school funding adequacy case in Washington State, Education Sector analyst Robert Manwaring whether such torts (and their twins, funding equity suits) were on the comeback. The answer is yes. And the Obama administration, through the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, may be aiding those efforts.

Back in November, at the Schott Foundation for Public Education’s annual confab, Pennsylvania Congressman Chaka Fattah announced that the department would be stepping up its efforts on that front — and reverse Bush administration policies on addressing adequacy and equity. Declared Fattah: “We need to use… the leverage of the federal dollars… to cause the other dollars to be spent more equitably.”

A day later, the Assistant Secretary of Education overseeing OCR, Russlynn Ali, admitted that the office has begun investigations into alleged violations of Title IV provisions, and is looking to provide “real data” that can help advocates and school funding lawyers advance their goals. Although the former Education Trust official cautioned those advocates that a school equity agenda needed to be more than about lawsuits and funding, she also declared that OCR was “back in business.”

All this comes as such suits are on the decline. Until the Washington State decision, the last major school funding tort was Campaign for Fiscal Equity v. State of New York. Most of these suits have fallen to seed partly because Centrist Democrat school reformers have found charter schools and standards-and-accountability to be better solutions for educational inequities. As seen in New Jersey with Abbott, funding equity and adequacy suits also fail to do little to fix the underlying problem of big urban school systems (and their suburban counterparts): Restrictive teachers union contracts; state laws that limit the ability of districts to remove laggard teachers; and systemic bureaucratic incompetence. The fact that these urban districts already yield per-pupil dollars from past funding formula revisions in their favor that make their spending nearly as high as their suburban counterparts often shows that more money doesn’t equal better student performance.

This also comes as states and school districts wrangle with strapped budgets. Already, Campaign for Fiscal Equity’s Michael Rebell is arguing that cutting school funding — which often accounts for at least a quarter of state budgets — is unconstitutional. Expect Rebell to make those arguments in court — complete with the usual citation of constitutional provisions that states must provide for free education.

Then there is the reality that as much of the problem lies with overall urban policies — including the granting of tax abatement that reduce tax revenues and a lack of focus on solving crime and other quality-of-life issues — which districts can’t solve without the backing of municipal governments. One important reason for mayoral control of schools is that the mayor must also think of schools as he considers whether to hand out another tax break to a favored property baron.

But more adequacy and equity lawsuits are coming.

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