Courts as Catalysts

State Supreme Courts and Public School Finance Equity

By Matthew H. Bosworth

Subjects: Education Policy And Leadership
Paperback : 9780791450147, 298 pages, May 2001
Hardcover : 9780791450130, 298 pages, June 2001

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Table of contents


Chapter 1. Courts and Social Reform

Chapter 2. Funding American Public Schools

Chapter 3. Texas: “We Want to Surrender, We Just Don't Know Where To Turn Ourselves In”

Chapter 4. Kentucky: “The Courts Made Us Do It”

Chapter 5. North Dakota: “We'll Give You One More Chance”

Chapter 6. State Supreme Courts and the Different Paths to Public School Finance Equity Reform

Cases Cited

Appendix One. Texas Questionnaires
Appendix Two. Kentucky Questionnaires
Appendix Three. North Dakota Questionnaires




Discusses state supreme courts and funding equity reform in Texas, Kentucky, and North Dakota.


Despite education being one of the most important, if not the most important, political issues for the American public, access to funding for education is not equal across school districts. Local public schools are generally funded by a combination of state aid and local property taxes, a combination which favors wealthier suburbs and disadvantages relatively poor urban and rural areas. Nationwide, low-income districts have gone to court attempting to remedy these inequities. But has litigation been worth the price from the activists' perspective? Can poor districts (and poor parents and children) look to courts for help? Conversely, should rich districts fear court-ordered redistribution of wealth from their schools? This book examines the effectiveness of state supreme courts in Texas, Kentucky, and North Dakota in achieving funding equity between rich and poor public school districts. It includes more than ninety interviews with policymakers and observers and concludes that, although there are many factors that can help or hinder equity reform, courts can make a difference.

Matthew H. Bosworth is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Winona State University.


"This is an excellent work. Bosworth combines case studies of controversies over school finance with attention to the broader political context within which state supreme courts are acting. " — G. Alan Tarr, author of Judicial Process and Judicial Policymaking

"A significant contribution to the study of school funding litigation. Scholars, lawyers, and educators will find it valuable reading and a useful resource. " — John Dayton, The University of Georgia