Framing Equal Opportunity: Law and the Politics of School Finance Reform

By Michael Paris | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWO
SCHOOL FINANCE
REFORM AND
EDUCATIONAL
IDEOLOGY:
A GUIDE TO LAW,
POLITICS, AND POLICY

PUBLIC EDUCATION IN THE UNITED STATES IS A VAST undertaking. About 7 million people hold full- or part-time jobs in some 94, 000 elementary and secondary schools, located in some 15, 000 school districts. Forty-seven million children, or about 90 percent of the U.S. school-aged population, attend these public schools. On average, public schooling accounts for 25 percent of all state-level expenditures, and no other government program absorbs a larger share of state and local resources.1 Measured in real dollars, moreover, education spending has increased threefold since 1960. In 1960, governments spent on average roughly the current equivalent of $2, 331 per pupil; in 2001 that figure was $7, 524. Even in the 1980s and 1990s, a period of general retrenchment in most other areas of social provision, education spending climbed steadily.2 As Hochschild and Scovronick note, although the United States is generally regarded as a “welfare state laggard” compared to European countries, “education is the only issue in the arena of social welfare policies for

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