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Schoolhouses, Courthouses, and Statehouses

Schoolhouses, Courthouses, and Statehouses: Solving the Funding-Achievement Puzzle in America's Public Schools

Eric A. Hanushek
Alfred A. Lindseth
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 432
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  • Book Info
    Schoolhouses, Courthouses, and Statehouses
    Book Description:

    Spurred by court rulings requiring states to increase public-school funding, the United States now spends more per student on K-12 education than almost any other country. Yet American students still achieve less than their foreign counterparts, their performance has been flat for decades, millions of them are failing, and poor and minority students remain far behind their more advantaged peers. In this book, Eric Hanushek and Alfred Lindseth trace the history of reform efforts and conclude that the principal focus of both courts and legislatures on ever-increasing funding has done little to improve student achievement. Instead, Hanushek and Lindseth propose a new approach: a performance-based system that directly links funding to success in raising student achievement. This system would empower and motivate educators to make better, more cost-effective decisions about how to run their schools, ultimately leading to improved student performance. Hanushek and Lindseth have been important participants in the school funding debate for three decades. Here, they draw on their experience, as well as the best available research and data, to show why improving schools will require overhauling the way financing, incentives, and accountability work in public education.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3025-1
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xv-xx)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-9)

    American students are no longer competitive. For more than thirty years, student achievement has remained flat, even as education spending, adjusted for inflation, has almost quadrupled. Huge numbers of children cannot perform at basic levels in reading, math, and science, even by the time they reach the twelfth grade. This crisis is a national one, and the failure to find effective solutions threatens not only our individual well-being, but also our country’s leadership in the world community. The principal solutions relied upon in the past have proven ineffective. Boosting student achievement will clearly require fundamental changes in the operation and...

  7. 1 Just How Important Is Education?
    (pp. 10-22)

    The importance of education to our way of life is self-evident. The $600 billion our country spends on K–12 education exceeds the national defense budget. The centerpiece of President George W. Bush’s domestic legislative agenda was the No Child Left Behind Act. Endless policy statements, media stories, and public pronouncements begin and end with words like this: “We must ensure that our children have the skills necessary to compete in the twenty-first century.”

    The economic effects of education are especially compelling. Successful schools are important to us individually, to our society, and to America’s leadership position in the world....

  8. 2 U.S. Education at a Crossroads
    (pp. 23-43)

    The pride of Americans in their educational system is fading. In the last century, the United States led the world in introducing broad-based schooling for its populace, giving American children from all walks of life educational opportunities unheard of in the rest of the world. The underlying belief was that increased years of schooling would promote individual and national development. Today, on the other hand, high dropout rates and low scores on state-administered academic tests call into question the effectiveness of our system. Even though most parents have favorable impressions of their own children’s schools, they recognize that public schooling...

  9. 3 The Political Responses
    (pp. 44-82)

    This chapter examines how the political branches of government—the executive branch and the legislature—have responded to the crisis in American schools; later chapters deal with the responses of the judicial branch.¹ Historically, school policy has been most influenced by the elective branches, because it is the governors and state legislatures that propose and pass the laws, regulate the delivery of educational services, set the educational standards for schools and students, and establish the necessary funding systems. Most important, it is within the parameters set by them, both fiscal and nonfiscal, that large-scale education reform is undertaken.

    Policymakers and...

  10. 4 Court Interventions in School Finance
    (pp. 83-117)

    Until the 1950s, virtually all important decisions regarding elementary and secondary schools and their funding were made by elected officials of states and localities. The federal government was only marginally involved, and neither the federal nor state courts were involved in any meaningful way.¹

    The world of education is now very different. The federal government has become a major participant through, among other things, its funding of programs for disadvantaged students, its requirements for handling special needs students, and the state accountability systems mandated under NCLB. But an even more significant change has been the all-encompassing role assumed by the...

  11. 5 Practical Issues with Educational Adequacy
    (pp. 118-144)

    The constitutional basis of adequacy suits is not the only hurdle faced by the courts. When courts try to translate broad constitutional principles into workable solutions, certain practical difficulties make the task especially challenging. These difficulties surface both during the liability phase of the litigation (when the court is engaged in determining whether the state’s system of education complies with the constitution) and during the remedy phase (when the court is trying to ensure an appropriate remedy is implemented). In this chapter, we discuss first the practical difficulties of dealing with the issues at the center of most adequacy cases:...

  12. 6 The Effectiveness of Judicial Remedies
    (pp. 145-170)

    There is one most curious aspect to the involvement of state courts in school finance. In the four decades during which these cases have touched on over forty states, it has become commonplace for the plaintiffs to cite the number of cases in which the plaintiffs have prevailed, and to oftentimes describe the nature and magnitude of the judgments in other states. On the other hand, plaintiffs rarely, if ever, introduce evidence that relates a court’s ruling requiring more equitable or increased funding to better performance of students on state achievement tests or other performance measures.

    In this chapter, we...

  13. 7 Science and School Finance Decision Making
    (pp. 171-216)

    Courts and legislatures alike find themselves looking for scientific research and evaluation to help in making decisions about education policy and appropriations. Unfortunately, while there are plenty of consultants, researchers, academicians, advocates, vendors, and others ready to help answer the key questions, the information they tend to provide is frequently flawed, one-sided, or misleading—pushing decision makers in costly and ineffective directions.

    The twin questions policymakers and courts continuously grapple with are these: “What should money be spent on in order to achieve the desired results?” and “How much should an adequate education cost?” If science answers the difficult factual...

  14. 8 A Performance-Based Funding System
    (pp. 217-262)

    In this chapter, we lay out the elements of a performance-based funding system—a system that we believe will lead to significantly better student achievement and at the same time make more effective use of valuable and limited education dollars.

    Despite massive increases in funding for K–12 education, performance has not significantly improved, creating a puzzle for many observers of schools. Researchers, legislators, courts, and others have at the same time been reluctant to acknowledge that increased resources may not be the answer, but even that is beginning to change. Witness the recent report on schools in California, financed...

  15. 9 Making Performance-Based Funding a Reality
    (pp. 263-290)

    The best ideas are of little value unless they are actually implemented. Therefore, in this concluding chapter, we address several subjects critical to implementing performance-based funding. Since the state legislatures are the key to bringing about the type of reforms we recommend, we reflect on the legislative process and whether it is “broken” in various states, as is often alleged. To the extent the courts remain a force in school finance matters, we posit a different and, we believe, more productive role for them. We then discuss likely opposition to performance-based funding by teachers’ unions and other influential interest groups...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 291-352)
  17. Legal Citations
    (pp. 353-360)
  18. Sources for Figures and Tables
    (pp. 361-362)
  19. References
    (pp. 363-394)
  20. Index
    (pp. 395-411)