07 SES 07 B, Inclusion
This article presents a framework of school finance equity driven by Professor John Rawls ideology of Procedural Justice. The authors are interested in how school finance equity scholarship is potentially expanded theoretically, empirically, and practically by accounting for greater procedural justice when determining educational resource allocation preferences. Using an intersectional foundation of scholarship in school finance, economics, social justice, and critical theory this conceptual framework expands two specific fields of research: policy research related to the economics of education; school finance research related to equity.
The current school finance theoretical framework of equity relies on the premise that all individuals within a group should be equally treated if they have equal needs (i.e., horizontal equity), or have varied treatments dictated by individual need (i.e., vertical equity) (Paquette, 2005). The opposing circumstances create a dilemma that continues to resonate in contemporary society and into school finance, as applying the horizontal rule leads toward greater equality and not equity, and applying a greater proportionality rule, or vertical equity, leads away from perceived fairness (Levin, 1989). Furthermore, while classical utilitarianism (i.e., distributive justice for maximization) and Rawlsian equity (i.e., minimizing the maximum difference in the distribution) have their individual nuances, which alleviate some of the paradoxical relationships imbedded within Aristotelian equity, they too rely heavily on a form of justice that is hindered as distributive.
The Aristotelian concept of equity oversimplifies the daily operation of schooling, the fiscal requirement of educating a large set of diverse learners, and localized constraints (i.e., accountability measures, austerity) ushering in reform related to competition and production (Levin, 1989). The theoretical perspectives driving a form of equity that opts for fiscal neutrality as justice perpetuate the status quo, solely relying on that which is narrowly possible, ignoring that which is truly equitable, providing itself an opportunity for abdication by the same belief system that built the structure ignoring pluralism (i.e., that which is unequal juxtaposed against that which is equitable) through self-rationalization. In this manner, equity, fairness, and justice, no matter the course of action, or legal ramification, is unattainable. Guiding equity away from these normative distributive epistemologies is absolutely necessary in order to obtain resolution toward a set of policies, which may lead to a nuanced school funding policy decision making process that is contingent upon a moral imperative toward education, not affirmation within the structure.
Procedural justice stems from an area of legal research that dictates the basic civil procedures, and course, to manage civil disputes (Minow, 1984). This social justice paradigm adds to the debate in resource equity as it allows for fairness, justice, and inclusion to function as an artifact of the need group, providing more power toward the circumstances and individuals requiring some form of remedy. Furthermore, advocating for greater amounts of procedural justice in decisions of fiscal equity allows for debate in policy that includes the voice of the need group, instead of solely relying on the voice and decision-making power of the stakeholder administrator that often controls both the funding mechanism, and the final decision. In this manner, procedural justice allows for horizontal equity at the revenue level, and vertical equity at the expenditure level, so long as the artifact of distribution is of equal value and quality (i.e., revenue, teaching battery), and is robust enough to support differences within the need group so that learning improves (i.e., student learning capacity). Defining a conceptual theory of equity in school finance through procedural justice can lead to pluralism of both equity paradigms thus resolving Aristotle’s historical dilemma (Stillwagon, 2016; Wagstaff, 1994).
This paper constructs a theoretical argument to frame resource distribution as a function of redistributive justice requiring re-evaluation in order to allow for both horizontal equity, and vertical equity to pluralistically co-exist. The alternative conceptual framework of school finance equity is developed by applying theoretical concepts of justice, through the lens of critical theory, to the prevailing theoretical framework of equity in school finance policy produced through school finance scholarship (i.e. Baker, 2001; Berne & Stiefel, 1984, 1994; Clotfelter, Ladd, & Vigdor, 2007; Hadderman, 1999; Rolle & Liu, 2007; Toutkoushian & Michael, 2007).
This theoretical research paper finds that policymakers are motivated to seek solutions based on data derived through coherence, group attitudes, their own personal thoughts, beliefs, and values, behaviors of the system (i.e., education), the market (i.e., school choice), and all stakeholders (Baldridge, 1978; Copeland, Weston, & Shastri, 1983; LeGrand, 1991). This information guides the decision-making process and maintains ineffective policy through the reduction of tension for the sake of stasis. Furthermore, budgeting and allocation strategies, whether the result of thoughtful strategic planning processes, competing political forces within the organization, or the bargaining for resource shares, seek to maximize the utility of funding available in order to improve student outcomes and minimize inequity (Heise, 1995; Lee, Johnson, & Joyce, 2004; Rolle, 2004). One of the challenges to improvement is the default of year to year decisions toward inertia (Roza, Guin, & Davis, 2007). Fiscal decisions are often based on the most efficient manner to bring the system back to stasis, not the most effective or equitable strategies (Mitchell et al., 1993). In order to mitigate these circumstances, inculcating procedural justice into the hegemonic understanding of equity can help inform the redistributive nature of fiscal resources leading to nuanced school funding policy decision’s contingent upon a moral imperative toward inclusive education, not affirmation within the structure.
Baker, B. D. (2001). Balancing equity for students and taxpayers: Evaluating school finance reform in Vermont. Journal of Education Finance, 26(4), 437-462. Baldridge, J. V. (1978). Policy making and effective leadership: A national study of academic management. Los Angeles, CA; Higher Education Research Institute. Berne, R. & Steifel, L. (1994). Measuring equity at the school level: The finance perspective. Education Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 16(4), 415-421. Clotfelter, C. T., Ladd, H. F., & Vigdor, J. L. (2007). Teacher credentials and student achievement: Longitudinal analysis with student fixed effects. Economics of Education Review, 26(6), 673-682. Copeland, T. E., Weston, J. F., & Shastri, K. (1983). Financial theory and corporate policy. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing. Hadderman, M. (1999). Equity and adequacy in educational finance. Eugene, OR: ERIC Clearinghouse on Educational Management. Heise, M. (1995). State constitutions, school finance litigation, and the third wave: From equity to adequacy. Temple Law Review, 68(1), 1151-1176. Lee, R. D., Johnson, R. W., & Joyce, P. G. (2004). Public budgeting systems. Burlington, VA: Jones & Bartlett Learning. LeGrand, J. (1991). Quasi-markets and social policy. The Economic Journal, 101(408), 1256-1267 Levin, H. M. (1989). Mapping the economics of education: An introductory essay. Educational Researcher, 18(4), 13-17. Minow, M. (1984). Some thoughts on dispute resolution and civil procedure. Journal of Legal Education, 34(2), 284-297. Mitchell, G., Tetlock, P. E., Mellers, B. A., & Ordonez, L. D. (1993). Judgments of social justice: Compromises between equality and efficiency. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65(4), 629. Paquette, J. (2005). Public funding for “private” education: The equity challenge of enhanced choice. American Journal of Education, 111(4), 568-595. Rolle, A. (2004). An empirical discussion of public school districts as budget-maximizing agencies. Journal of Education Finance, 29(4), 277-297. Roza, M., Guin, K., & Davis, T. (2007). What is the sum of the parts? How federal, state and district funding streams confound efforts to address different student types. School finance redesign project working paper #9. Seattle, WA: Center on Reinventing Public Education. Stillwaggon, J. (2016). Two Ideals of Educational Justice. Teachers College Record, 118(10), n10. Toutkoushian, R. K., & Michael, R. S. (2007). An alternative approach to measuring horizontal and vertical equity in school funding. Journal of Education Finance, 32(4), 395-421. Wagstaff, G. F. (1994). Equity, equality, and need: Three principles of justice or one? An analysis of “equity as desert”. Current Psychology, 13(2), 138-152.
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