In this Article, I join these calls for the federal government to lead states to reform their school funding systems. In doing so, I build upon my recent scholarship that calls for additional federal leadership insisting that states prioritize equity and excellence in education. I recommend that we restructure education federalism by requiring the federal government to serve as the ultimate guarantor of equal access to an excellent education. My theory of education federalism embraces federal policymaking strengths in education, such as federal research, technical, and financial assistance, that support state and local reforms to promote equity and excellence. This theory would retain state and local control over education where states and localities possess superior policymaking strengths, including preserving states as laboratories of reform that determine how to achieve equity and excellence. It also would promote new forms of state and local control over education by enhancing state and local capacity for reform.
This Article provides a practical application of my theory for reconstructing education federalism in ways that would support equal access to an excellent education. My analysis serves two goals. First, I present research regarding some of the central school funding system shortcomings that may not be widely understood. The shortcomings that I analyze are: the provision of less revenue to districts with substantial concentrations of students with greater needs; the failure to tailor funding to the objective of the education system; substandard funding amounts; and insufficient oversight of school funding. Second, scholars have increasingly begun to call for a federal role in education funding by proposing a single-step reform. In contrast, I contend that the United States should incrementally increase federal influence over school funding to prompt states to maintain equitable funding systems.
Kimberly Jenkins Robinson, No Quick Fix for Equity and Excellence: The Virtues of Incremental Shifts in Education Federalism, 27 Stan. L. & Pol'y Rev. 201, 250 (2016).