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Extra resources for Courts As Policymakers: School Finance Reform Litigation (American Legal Institutions)

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Choices of objects and standards were coded separately for equal protection and education clause claims. Finally, the third step was to translate this information into a categorical database. Using the coded briefs and the summaries, I coded each opinion in terms of the object/standard combinations that the majority accepted or rejected with respect to equal protection clause and education clause claims. In addition, each opinion was coded with respect to whether the court addressed each of the economic issues and, if so, how it resolved them.

In Serrano I, plaintiffs claimed that the California school finance system resulted in substantial disparities in spending per pupil, and in the quality and extent of educational opportunities across school districts, in violation of state education and equal protection clauses. In essence, plaintiffs claimed that inequality in spending (and the resulting inequality in educational opportunities) violated these constitutional provisions. Apparently ignoring any implications with respect to educational opportunities, and instead interpreting plaintiffs’ claim as raising only issues of spending, the court concluded that the education clause did not require equal spending, and denied the plaintiffs’ education clause claim without more.

H4. Courts will tend to evaluate education clause claims in terms of a minimum adequacy standard. H5. In cases where the court addresses the issue of the uncertain relationship between expenditures and student outcomes, plaintiffs’ victories will occur more often when the court adopts a resource object. H6. Courts defining their states’ constitutional obligation in terms of a minimum adequacy standard will be more likely to rule in favor of reform. B. Data Data for this study consist of the text of state supreme court opinions addressing the merits of school finance reform claims from 1971 through 1996.

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