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Adequacy Lawsuits:
Their Growing Impact on American Education

October 13-14, 2005
Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

As of January 2005, lawsuits challenging the adequacy of state finance were in various stages of litigation in more than 20 states. The outcomes of these cases can be expected to have a major impact on American education in coming years. What will that impact be?

Existing research on adequacy suits is limited and therefore provides little guidance. Yet the consequences of equity lawsuits, from which adequacy lawsuits have evolved, are well known. Although equity lawsuits caused spending differences between districts to decline dramatically, far less progress was made toward reducing the equally large student achievement gap, and overall performance remained essentially stagnant. This calls for a critical assessment of the adequacy movement's potential for reducing disparities in American education.

PEPG asked scholars from several disciplines to prepare papers on topics ranging from the historical origins of education clauses in state constitutions to the implementation of recent adequacy judgments and their impact on spending levels and student outcomes. The conference also brought together participants in several recent adequacy cases with divergent views of the adequacy movement's potential. Our hope is that the gathering provided useful guidance to advocates and policymakers intent on improving American education.