LITTLE ROCK — Lawsuits aimed at compelling legislatures to increase school funding have been filed in some 42 states. Courts have found for the plaintiffs in more than half of the cases on the grounds that schools are not "adequately" funded. These decisions have, in effect, changed the way education appropriations are made, moving decision making from legislatures to the courts. Instead of flowing from the political process, determinations of adequate appropriations come from judgeswho are informed by paid consultants. Recently, adequacy plaintiffs have suffered some serious setbacks. Undaunted, they soldier on.
In the state of Washington, adequacy plaintiffs filed a new lawsuit in early 2007 that is expected to rely heavily on a report prepared at the request of a gubernatorial-appointed commission, Washington Learns. This report, "An Evidence-Based Approach to School Finance Adequacy in Washington," claims to present scientific evidence of exactly what needs to be done to bring everychild to proficiency as defined under state and federal law. The advance, if true, would go far beyond this specific court case and could revolutionize American education. For if, indeed, we now know how to create an effective educational system, and only the funds are lacking, then the country's education problems can be solved.