Report Education

Lessons From Other States

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November 29, 2004

New York is not alone. A majority of states have faced legal challenges to their public school financing systems, and most of them have lost in court. As the State of New York seeks to comply with the ruling of its highest court, it is appropriate to examine the experiences of other states.

Equity cases were also brought and won during these years in New Hampshire and Vermont. In some states where litigation failed, advocates successfully pursued alternative strategies, such as amending the state constitutions in Florida and Oregon.

The 2003 victory of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) in New York State should be seen in the context of this wide-ranging experience in other states. The purpose of this paper is to consider the experience of these states and draw lessons from them that might benefit New Yorkers.

General Lessons:

  • A court victory does not ensure timely or effective policy responses.
  • In contrast, when political leaders are supportive of court policy directions, action can be prompt and effective.
  • Success in terms of generating additional spending for public schools does not automatically equal success in terms of improved educational outcomes.
  • Additional spending is more likely to result in gains in student achievement when the money is well-targeted.

This paper was prepared as support for the full report, "Can New York Get an A in School Finance Reform?" The research was made possible by generous support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and by designated contributions from CBC Trustees.

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Lessons from Other States