Friday, March 16, 2007

Stanford Report #1 - welfare for scholars

The Stanford study cost what? $3 million? to tell us that "The “correct” answer to all of these questions will not be offered by any particular policymaker or scholar. . . .The answer must be provided in the form of an ongoing democratic conversation among citizens and their democratically elected representatives." from Reich's framework -- Paper#1 in the study -- I have pulled out some selected quotes from this study below.
1. Equality and Adequacy in the State’s Provision of Education: Mapping the Conceptual Landscape, Reich, Robert (2007), Stanford University. [my responses in brackets to Reich]

In school finance litigation, advocates and courts have abandoned equality and adopted the language of adequacy. . . .Along with this evolution – though not necessarily a consequence of the evolution [I think it was necessarily!] – has come a shift in attention on educational inputs (dollars per pupil, for example) to educational outputs (student achievement or, in California’s case, the API index). [in other words high stakes testing has legitimized the underfunding of schools]

“adequacy suits abandon the idea of tying districts together financially by requiring access to equal resources. Those districts that can fund a more-than-adequate education are free to do so.” [and have done so!]

[why the attraction to adequacy v equality?]
Though state education articles vary considerably from state to state, there is generally a requirement that the legislature provide a “thorough and efficient,” “uniform”, or “high quality” education to its children. This language was more amenable to an adequacy orientation rather than an equality orientation. Second, it was worries, sometime borne out in practice, that to achieve equality the state would level down spending of the wealthy districts rather than level up spending of the poorest. Given the precipitous decline of school funding in California, relative to other states, in the wake of the equalizing force of Serrano v. Priest and the tax limiting Proposition 13, the leveling down effect was seen to be of special concern in the nation’s most populous state

And moreover, despite the success of equity lawsuits in many states and the narrowing of funding gaps between districts, student achievement scores had not improved considerably. Most notably, the black-white test score gap, which had narrowed in the 1980s and early 1990s began to grow anew. One additional attraction of the adequacy paradigm, according to its supporters, was that it quite deliberately focused on academic outcomes in addition to resource inputs.

Nathan Glazer :

To be sure, the case for both [racial] integration and equality of expenditure is powerful. But the chief obstacle to achieving these goals does not seem to be the indifference of whites and the non-poor to the education of white and the poor. . . . Rather, other values, which are not simply shields for racism, stand in the way:
the value of the neighborhood school; the value of local control of education and,
above all, the value of freedom from state imposition when it affects matters so
personal as the future of one’s children. [???!!!!! But it is a matter of being able to hog a disproportionate share of the resources!!]
The equality framework has frequently been deployed to ask, “why should funding levels between districts be substantially different?” Adequacy, by contrast, incorporates educational outcomes – academic achievement – into its framework. Adequacy asks “What level of educational resources is sufficient to generate a specific set of educational outcomes?”

One fundamental distinction between equality and adequacy as applied to educational resource distribution is that adequacy seeks to ensure that all students have enough education and, if this condition is reached, will tolerate inequalities above this threshold.

In the end, then, the relevant question for citizens and policymakers seems to be whether the state’s obligation to provide education is exhausted once absolute educational deprivation, measured by some kind accountability system of state standards, has been eliminated. If this is the case, then adequacy is the right framework.
Alternatively, does the state’s obligation to provide education go beyond the production of good schools for all and require, say, that opportunities to attend college and compete for jobs in the labor market not merely be adequate but be equal? If so, then inequalities in resources and outcomes above the level of adequacy will undermine equal opportunity and only the equality paradigm will be able to address these relative deprivations.

Adequate for what? Equality of what? These are difficult questions. But it is important to realize the deep structure of what sort of issues we must address if we are to answer the question of what is the state’s obligation to provide education.
The “correct” answer to all of these questions will not be offered by any particular policymaker or scholar. . . .The answer must be provided in the form of an ongoing democratic conversation among citizens and their democratically elected representatives.

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