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Level Playing Field, A

School Finance in the Northeast

Jane Fowler Morse

Publication Year: 2007

In this timely work, Jane Fowler Morse reviews the history of school finance litigation in the United States and then examines recent legal and political struggles to obtain equitable school funding in New York, Vermont, and Ontario. These three places have employed strikingly different strategies to address this issue, and Morse analyzes lessons learned at each that will benefit both public officials and citizens interested in seeking reform elsewhere. Drawing on writers from Aristotle to Cass Sunstein and Martin Luther King Jr., she also explores the concepts of social justice and equity, highlighting the connections between racism, poverty, and school funding. The result is a passionate plea for equitable funding of public education nationwide to instantiate the ideal of “liberty and justice for all.”

Published by: State University of New York Press

A Level Playing Field: School Finance in the Northeast

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Table 5.1: Conditions Affecting Child Health By Race

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pp. xi

Table 5.2: Conditions Affecting Child Health by Socioeconomic Status

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pp. xi-xiii

In 1968, I read Jonathan Kozol’s book, Death at an Early Age. The descriptions of the harm done to children in school appalled me. They also rang a bell. In South Jersey in the late 1940s, I had seen my black friend, Frances, humiliated at school so much that one day she was driven to drink a bottle of ink in reply to our teacher’s asking her, in annoyance, why she...

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pp. xv

I would like to acknowledge the many people who assisted in my work, including my husband, Lars Mazzola, for his patience; my children Adina (who assisted with legal questions galore), Lonny, and Caleb Morse, for their inspiration; my colleagues, especially Sue Books, of SUNY at New...

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1. Education, Inequity, and the Level Playing Field

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pp. 1-29

Political and social philosophers have long affirmed the need for education. In the Republic, Plato organizes his ideal state around an educational system. Aristotle’s Politics proposes public education. Hellenistic, Roman, Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque thinkers wrote about education. In the late seventeenth century, John Locke argued that the...

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2. The Search for a Legal Solution in New York

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pp. 31-66

New York has a long history of support for public education. Somehow, somewhere, the state lost the political will to provide both adequate and equitable funding for the common schools mandated by the 1894 constitution. By 1923, a state-appointed commission recommended sweeping changes that were never implemented. In the 1970s and 1980s, a...

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3. Sharing in Vermont

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pp. 67-88

Vermont is generally known as a progressive state, yet, historically, it has spent considerably less money per pupil for education than many other states, including its neighbor, New York. Vermont also had the widest inequalities reported by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) in 1998. In 1996, Carol Brigham, Amanda...

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4. Executive Reform in Ontario

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pp. 89-117

School finance reform in Ontario from the late the 1990s to early 2004 differed from that in New York and Vermont. In Ontario, reform, driven by a conservative government, originated in the executive branch. “Student- Focused Funding” came to the province with the election of Premier Mike Harris in 1995. Elected by a substantial majority, Harris had...

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5. The Impact of Poverty on Children's Performance in School

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pp. 119-152

Educators have long debated whether education can solve social ills. The argument still rages, although the nay-sayers seem to have won, for the time being. Perhaps an understanding of why this has happened will help to explain why reform seems so intractable, including equitable funding. A tendency to blame the public schools for a wide array of the...

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6. The Impact of Racism on Children's Performance in School

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pp. 153-184

In addition to poverty, segregation and racism take their toll on children’s achievement in school. Children who are poor are clearly harmed by poverty, as chapter 5 documents. Often, poor children are also children of color, which results from the discrimination that deprives them and their parents of a good education, employment opportunities with decent...

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7. Education Funding and Progress

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pp. 185-221

Schools are perhaps the single most important institution in a democracy. Voting rights, civil rights, civil behavior, democratic participation in government on all levels, and many other rights and responsibilities of citizens depend on widespread, quality education. School funding, a matter of social justice, is often the largest item in the state budget. The...


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pp. 223-229


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pp. 231-286


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pp. 287-313


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pp. 315-318


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pp. 319-349

E-ISBN-13: 9780791480892
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791469316
Print-ISBN-10: 079146931X

Page Count: 365
Illustrations: 2 tables
Publication Year: 2007