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Determining whether states provide adequate resources to schools is a dominant issue in school finance across the country. In this case, "adequate" means sufficient funds for schools to teach all or at least all, but the most severely disabled students to state and district proficiency standards.

Systems for Determining Adequacy

Four different systems or models are used to determine education finance adequacy:

  • The successful schools/districts model examines spending at schools that have been successful in teaching their students to state proficiency standards and sets the adequacy level at the weighted average of the expenditures of such districts. This method is being used in part by Ohio, Illinois, and Mississippi.

  • The professional judgment model uses panels of education experts (teachers, administrators, and local school finance personnel) to identify the resources needed to establish model schools capable of achieving state education goals. The resources are then priced out and added up to determine the adequate fiscal base for a school; the base can be adjusted for differing characteristics of students and districts. This model is used in Oregon, Maine, and Wyoming and is under consideration in a number of other states.

  • The statistical model takes everything into account; it examines all aspects of a school, applies a statistical formula, and determines what an average student needs to succeed.

  • In the whole-schools approach, school or district leaders select and set up a model they believe will work. They determine the cost of implementing the model in a school, including what adjustments might need to be made in the school.
State Measures of Adequacy

States use a variety of measures to determine adequacy. For example:

Input measures include:
  • Carnegie units (Mississippi)
  • "Opportunity (for all students) to Acquire Postsecondary Prerequisites" (Wyoming)
  • Participation in Advanced Placement courses (South Carolina)
  • Teacher experience (Mississippi)
  • School accreditation level (Mississippi).
Outcome measures include:
  • State test scores (total score and/or improvement in test scores over time)
  • Attendance rate (Ohio and South Carolina)
  • Graduation/dropout rates (Ohio and South Carolina).
ECS has examined eight states that undertook adequacy studies for various reasons between 1993 and 2001:
  • To comply with court rulings (Ohio and Wyoming)
  • To help align education finance systems with state accountability programs (Illinois, Louisiana, and South Carolina)
  • To re-evaluate the state's school finance system (Maryland, Mississippi, and Oregon).
Base cost and total cost figures differ greatly in each study, and each study had a different definition of what constitutes an "adequate education." Some studies include funding for at-risk and special education students while others do not. Some states phase in their proposed spending increases while others do not.

All eight state studies recommended increases in base spending and total spending, as well as changes in allocation systems, to achieve adequacy throughout the system.

Sources: Michael Griffith, Education Finance Adequacy PowerPoint Presentation; Consortium for Policy Research in Education, Program Adequacy Website.


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