Power, Constraint, and Policy Change

Courts and Education Finance Reform

By Robert M. Howard, Christine H. Roch, Susanne Schorpp, and Shane A. Gleason

Subjects: State And Local Politics, Constitutional Studies, Education, American Government, Legal Studies
Series: SUNY series in American Constitutionalism
Paperback : 9781438481364, 162 pages, July 2021
Hardcover : 9781438481357, 162 pages, January 2021

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Table of contents

List of Figures and Tables

1. Introduction
The Fight over Funding
A Brief History of Public Education
The Funding Disparity and the Turn to Court-Ordered Solutions
Why Courts? A Theory of Policy Change through State Courts
Waves of Finance Reform
Plan of the Book

2. Why Courts?
Introduction: Politics, Law, and Education Finance Reform
The Political Environment
Models, Methodology, and Results
Conclusion: Predicting the Institutional Agent of Court-Ordered Finance Reform

3. Citation Patterns in Education Finance Policy
Vertical Citations and the Power of Precedent
Horizontal Citations and Persuasiveness
Hypotheses: State Supreme Courts Shaping Education Finance Reform
Data and Methods

4. When Citations Are Not Enough
What Else Matters
Testing the Limits of Citations: Data and Methods
Discussion and Conclusion

5. Policy Diffusion through Courts
Introduction: Do as I Do, Not as I Say
Policy Diffusion in the States
Diffusion and Emulation of Court-Ordered Education
Finance Reform
Political, Institutional, and Legal Factors Influencing Emulation
Data, Method, and Model

6. Conclusion—How State Courts Move and Change Policy
Law, Politics, and Policy Formation
Empirical Findings
What We Know
What We Want to Know


Examines how state courts change public policy through an analysis of their influence on state education finance reform.


Power, Constraint, and Policy Change analyzes state court influence on state education finance reform. Beginning in the early 1970s litigants began filing suits in state courts to change state education funding in order to prevent disparities in education resources between wealthy and poor communities. These cases represent a fundamental policy debate in American society, pitting the importance of education against the cost and method of funding it. Through education finance, the authors explore how and why courts often end up determining and resolving policy funding debates. Education funding has involved both the federal constitution and state constitutions, as well as legislation and court-mandated remedies, which, ultimately, determine who and how we pay for this critical American value.

Robert M. Howard is Professor of Political Science at Georgia State University. He is the author of several books, including Getting a Poor Return: Courts, Justice, and Taxes, also published by SUNY Press. Also at Georgia State University, Christine H. Roch is Professor of Public Management and Policy. Susanne Schorpp is Research Fellow in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at La Trobe University, Australia. Shane A. Gleason is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi.