The state of Texas is the latest state to commission consultants John Augenblick and John Meyers to determine how much it would cost the state to provide students with an “adequate education.” While Augenblick and Meyers have identified an adequate spending level per pupil in several states in recent years, only Maryland, Ohio, and Wyoming actually use an “adequate” dollar amount to fund their schools.
Currently, Texas uses what opponents call a “Robin Hood” system. Property taxes from affluent districts are distributed among poorer districts in an effort to fund all public schools equally. Moves from such equity-based to adequacy-based systems are growing more popular in the United States. This approach allows questions about discrepancies among school districts to center on what resources are needed to provide an adequate education (high-quality teachers, small class size, etc.) and whether they are available, rather than equal funding formulas based on property taxes.
Proponents of an adequacy-based system argue that a clearly defined “adequate” dollar amount would guarantee that all schools have enough money to provide the necessary resources, without taking local revenue from wealthy districts. However, critics of the study argue that it is merely a stalling mechanism to delay reforming the flawed Robin Hood system. Another concern is likely to emerge once the study defines an adequate dollar amount: How can Texas afford to pay for what will likely be an increase over its currently estimated $6,800 per pupil expense, especially when facing a $9.9 billion budget shortfall?
To read more on the adequacy/equity debate, read Education Adequacy, Democracy and the Courts by Michael A. Rebell, executive director and counsel of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, Inc. at: http://www.accessednetwork.org/resources/EDUADEQ.PDF