In Education Week, Alfred A. Lindseth, a school finance attorney, writes about adequacy litigation. He gives away the game early when he qualifies his criticism of finance litigation by saying:

This is not to say that money well spent in the future could not have a more positive effect. However, it seems painfully obvious that fundamental changes will have to be made in the way education dollars are spent if we are to expect significant improvement in student achievement.

That’s very true, as are Lindseth’s cautions about finance litigation (except the local control bit, that ship sailed a while ago) but none of those concerns nor the plainly self-evident statement above obviates the fact that some states have finance systems that chronically shortchange poor communities. One can agree that we need changes in how money is spent but still argue that, even with those changes, some communities would be hamstrung by finance systems dependent on localized property wealth for school funding.

By the way, Lindseth is concerned about judges making education policy decisions, not a groundless concern. But the same reason that state legislatures generally must be forced by the courts to address school finance problems is the same reason they’re reluctant to pass school improvements with bite — they dislike and avoid tough decisions.

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