Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2010

Abstract

School finance reform has been one of the most controversial and contentious issues in public policy over the last thirty years. Public schools have served as battlegrounds over fundamental questions of equality, liberty, and access to social and economic opportunities. Since the historic decision rendered by the California Supreme Court in Serrano v. Priest (1971) equated public education with a fundamental right, a wave of legal and legislative reforms swept the nation including the state of Connecticut. Following the lead of California, plaintiffs in the Horton v.Meskill (1977) case argued that the Connecticut’s heavy reliance on the property tax to finance public schools was unconstitutional. Finding in favor of the plaintiffs, the Connecticut Supreme Court directed the General Assembly to fashion a plan to equalize spending between school districts. Thirty years and numerous attempts later, the goal of school finance reform to equalize spending across school districts has not produced the intended effects of reducing funding disparities. In fact, some would argue that despite modest strides in equalizing spending, the gap between rich and poor districts has widened. To account for this apparent policy failure, tentative explanations will entail a thorough examination of the key institutional actors involved in educational policy making as well as the following factors: political ideology, financial resource constraints, legal complexity and the political economy of school funding. By capturing the legal and legislative dynamics behind the school finance reform movement, a more nuanced and contextualized account emerg