The Public Interest

Equalizing education: in whose benefit?

Daniel P. Moynihan

Fall 1972

A series of recent state and federal court decisions, just now reaching the Supreme Court on appeal, have held that expenditure per pupil in public schools must be equal for all students in any given state, or nearly equal, or in any event not differing in amounts clearly associated with the differing per capita wealth of different school districts. The legal arguments behind these decisions have varied somewhat, but the primary thrust has been that of “equal protection of the laws,” with much owing, in almost every case, to the arguments successfully presented to the California Supreme Court in the 1971 decision of Serrano v. Priest. These in turn derived in considerable measure from the 1970 study Private Wealth and Public Education by John E. Coons, William H. Clune, and Stephen D. Sugarman.

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