Conference paper from "Adequacy Lawsuits: Their Growing Impact on American Education"

March 30, 2006
Robert M. Costrell (Education Advisor and Chief Economist for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Executive Office for Administration and Finance)

The Hancock school finance case put the adequacy doctrine to its strictest test yet, to see if even a national educational leader such as Massachusetts could be found in constitutional violation. The doctrine failed this test, as the court found in favor of the defendants due to the vigorous reform program since 1993. The court credited the state’s steady educational progress, closing of funding gaps between rich and poor districts, and its strong program of accountability and standards. None of this is relevant under the adequacy doctrine, which posits a constitutional funding requirement tied to specified educational outcomes. 

This paper was originally presented at an October 2005 conference on "Adequacy Lawsuits: Their Growing Impact on American Education," that was sponsored by Harvard University’s Program on Education Policy and Governance and its Taubman Center for State and Local Government, with support from the John M. Olin Foundation, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston, and an anonymous foundation. The contents reflect the views of the author (who also is responsible for the facts and accuracy of the material herein) and do not represent the official views or policies of the sponsors.

The author notes that he draws heavily on his experience as an expert witness for the Commonwealth in Hancock, as well as his experience in Massachusetts education policy over the last several years. He would like to thank Assistant Attorneys General Deirdre Roney and Juliana Rice, with whom he had the privilege of working closely throughout the Hancock case. He would also like to thank David Danning of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, for his helpful comments as a discussant at the conference where this paper was originally delivered.

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