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Atlanta University (AU)


School of Education

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This study focuses on the period from 1971, when the California Supreme Court ruled that education is a fundamental interest, to 1973, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it is not a fundamental interest.

The purpose of this investigation was to analyze the school finance activities of the state legislatures in light of the judicial activities of the period in question.

The methodology was that of the descriptive survey, and all fifty states were utilized as the universe. Responses to a thirty-item questionnaire were tabulated according to frequencies and percentages in four stages of reform activities. The four stages were: the pre-enactment stage, the enactment stage, the post-enactment stage, and the implementation stage.


Some significant findings were:

1. The reform activities conducted by state legislature were directly influenced by litigation in both the state and federal courts.

2. The California decision in Serrano v. Priest and the impending U.S. Supreme Court decision in San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez were found to have influenced school finance activities in a majority of the states effecting reforms of their school support programs.

3. Better than half of the states conducted studies of their school finance programs.

4. A comparable number of states introduced legislation which was intended to provide greater equity in school expenditures.

5. The constitutional statements of responsibility of those states which did reform their school finance structures were essentially the same as those which did not.

6. The prime movers most frequently identified by the states were the governor, the chief state school officer, and Serrano or similar litigation.

7. It would appear that states which chose to reform their school finance structures without a court mandate enacted new or improved programs with less delay than those ordered to do so as a result of litigation.


Some conclusions drawn were:

1. The number of school finance studies conducted by the states is not a predictor of the number of reforms.

2. The visible power structure is more likely to be cited as an influence on changes in school finance programs than are events.

3. The terms thorough and efficient gained their popularity more from Robinson v. Cahill type litigation than from the frequency of their appearance in state constitutions.

4. Fiscal neutrality has yet to become a reality in most states.

5. Low wealth districts are not likely to level up to the high wealth districts as long as political pressure controls the expenditure level of low wealth districts while resisting expenditure caps for high wealth districts.


The findings and conclusions of this study lead to the following recommendations:

1. States should thoroughly investigate the feasibility of including income and cost differential factors in the state aid formula.

2. States should develop satisfactory techniques for leveling up or rolling back to an effective level of fiscal support.

3. A study should be made of the factors which render a state ready for school finance reform.

4. Educators must develop measures of cost-quality relationships in school finance.

5. A study similar to this one should be conducted on school finance reform for the period from Rodriguez to present.

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