First Advisor

Morgan, Thomas Lee

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School finance litigation is often conceptualized as occurring in three waves, with the most recent wave, the third wave, beginning in 1989. Third wave litigation argues for improvements in school funding by claiming that schools are inadequately funded, resulting in students being deprived of their constitutional right to a certain level of education. Despite this third wave’ thirty-one year history, its effects remain understudied. In this secondary data analysis thirty-three cases where plaintiffs prevailed and twenty-nine cases where defendants prevailed were used to examine the effects of third wave school finance litigation on school funding and student achievement, and to determine whether any observed effects changed over time. The findings indicate that litigation is associated with small, but non-significant, improvements in school funding, and when those parties arguing for improved school adequacy prevail, student achievement improves. There is little evidence that litigation’s effectiveness has been changing over time. These findings suggest that litigation, especially where the plaintiffs prevail, can improve student outcomes, but this change is likely to be small.


136 pages

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