From Fiscal Equality to Equity: An Analysis of Case Law and Current Categorical Funding

The purpose of this study is to analyze school finance through the lens of case law. This study is especially significant as California recently settled a class action suit on educational financing, Williams v. State of California. This is a particularly significant lawsuit because for the first time in legal history fiscal equality made way to fiscal equity. This case set precedence in regards to measuring the needs of the individual student. In contrast, previous education litigation focused on equal dollars for students. In this study, the guiding research question is with case law moving from fiscal equality to a notion of fiscal equity, have allocations for special programs changed? I examine education funding of special programs (also known as categorical programs) from fiscal years 1996-1997 and 2006-2007 to test the hypothesis. The findings suggest that categorical program funding increased more than expected. In order to maintain integrity while calculating funding projections, I account for the increase in student enrollment during this ten year time span and inflation. The implications of increasing funding for categorical programs are vast and wide. This study might some day affect school policies regarding resource distribution at the local site level.