The Courts’ Consensus: Money Does Matter for Educational Opportunity

Published date01 November 2017
Date01 November 2017
184 ANNALS, AAPSS, 674, November 2017
DOI: 10.1177/0002716217732311
The Courts’
Money Does
Matter for
732311ANN The Annals of The American AcademyThe Courts’ Consensus
Over the half century since the Coleman Report was
issued, there has been an extensive debate among
scholars, policy-makers, and the courts about the extent
to which “money matters” in education. This article
briefly reviews the relevant academic literature and
then analyzes the forty state court education funding
litigations that have considered whether there is a cor-
relation between educational expenditures and
improved student outcomes. I find that that there is
now an overwhelming consensus that, of course, money
matters—when it is used well. This result indicates that
policy-makers and judges should shift from continuing
a fruitless abstract discussion of whether money mat-
ters and concentrate instead on the significant account-
ability questions of what resources are needed to
provide all students a meaningful educational opportu-
nity and how these resources can best be used to maxi-
mize student success, especially for students from
poverty backgrounds and students of color.
Keywords: education finance; educational policy-
making; courts; money matters; Coleman
Since the issuance of James Coleman’s 1966
report, Equality of Educational Opportunity
(Coleman et al. 1966), there has been a continu-
ing debate in the media, among researchers,
policy-makers, and in the courts about whether
increased expenditures for schools have a signifi-
cant impact on educational opportunity and
Michael A. Rebell is professor of practice in law and
educational policy at Teachers College, Columbia
University, and an adjunct professor at Columbia Law
School. He also was co-counsel for plaintiffs in Campaign
for Fiscal Equity v. State of New York, a case that is
discussed in this article.
NOTE: Esther Cyna, a doctoral student at Teachers
College, and Aaron Rogoff, a third-year student at
Columbia Law School, provided valuable research
assistance for this article, and Jessica Wolff contributed
her editing expertise.

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