The Challenge of Defining Equity and Adequacy in State School Finance Systems: A Look at New York's Experience

  • Vidhya Ananthakrishnan
Keywords: state school finance systems, school finance reform, New York, Campaign for Fiscal Equity, property tax, equity, adequacy


The substantial reliance on local property tax revenues to finance school systems has led to significant funding disparities between property-rich and property-poor school districts. The recognition of these disparities has spawned decades of litigation in states whose constitutions guarantee a high-quality education. Legislators and judges are often asked to reconcile very different definitions of equity and adequacy, which are the concepts that underpin a high-quality, state-provided education, and are often confounded by attempts to achieve equity and adequacy on a state-wide basis, given the differences in property tax revenues. This article describes the complexities inherent in the concepts of equity and adequacy and examines a long-running attempt to reform New York's school financing methods to ensure that all school districts in the state have an equitable and adequate level of resources.

Author Biography

Vidhya Ananthakrishnan
Vidhya Ananthakrishnan is a 2005 graduate of the Master of Public Policy program at The George Washington University with a dual concentration in Public Finance/Budgeting and Social Policy. She received her B.A. degree in economics and international ,studies from Northwestern University in 2000. Vidhya currently works part-time at The Finance Project where she provides program assistance to the Children and Families group. Prior to moving to Washington, DC, she worked as a staff associate for the Neighborhood Family Services Coalition, a New York City-based advocacy organization focused on children and youth issues.