The Challenge of Defining Equity and Adequacy in State School Finance Systems: A Look at New York's Experience
Journal IssueVolume 12, 2005
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.