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This article explains findings of part of a research project that uses the social fabric matrix (SFM) (Hayden 2006, 73-143) to analyze Nebraska’s State education finance system with regard to adequacy and rules. The emphasis is about how to approach such a problem and to demonstrate the use of mathematical expressions to articulate social beliefs as instituted through rules, regulations, and requirements.
Concern for equity through equalization criteria has a long history in the analysis of state education systems. Concern for adequacy has become important in analysis recently, although court rulings indicate that it should have been of analytical importance earlier because most state constitutions call for an adequate education for all children. Nationally, since 1989, plaintiffs in 20 states have won school adequacy cases for additional funding in supreme courts. Defendant states have won seven. There are 12 cases pending, two of which are in Nebraska. The settlements require the state legislature to fix the constitutional deficiencies in the state funding formula. The Kansas Supreme Court, in summer 2006, ordered the legislature to expand its support to local school districts by doubling state spending on K-12 public education. The shift from equity to adequacy, in legal terms, moves the legal theory from equal protection claims to claims made on the education provisions of state constitutions. Constitutional terms such as “free instruction,” “thorough and efficient education,” “sound basic education,” and “knowledge essential for good governance” have more interpretative meaning with regard to the “qualities” or “requirements” of schooling. Adequacy has support from the “standards-based” movement in that it considers a basket of goods, services, facilities, and technologies as the requirements necessary to deliver skills and knowledge to public school students (Rebell 2004, 40; and 2005, 291-324).