Date of Award

Winter 2002

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Casey D Cobb


Funding inequities between rich and poor school districts have been the subject of analysis, litigation, and policy decisions across the United States for almost four decades. Pressures for the reform of state educational funding systems have been driven by the national political trend toward equal educational opportunity and by litigation in state courts. The policy responses by states have varied significantly, however, and that variation has characterized the responses in the three New England states of Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. Much research nationally has focused on the litigation about school funding, but little study has been given to the subsequent policy decisions in the states. This research study is a comparative analysis that examines the factors that have shaped the policy decisions about school funding equalization in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont.

The research methods included (a) the study of archival documents to establish background conditions and to examine the litigation and policy responses in each of the three states and (b) a series of face-to-face interviews with well-informed elites, specifically officials, analysts, and politicians. The data analysis was conducted with consideration given to the paradigm outlined by Carr and Fuhrman (1999) which suggested that litigation, leadership, and public campaigns have been major factors in policy setting. The analysis first examined the data within each state separately before considering the data from the three states comparatively.

The analysis of the data suggested the following: (a) litigation can serve as a catalyst for policy but it is not as significant as the volume of research has suggested, (b) leadership is necessary but its form may vary, (c) educational issues like accountability and achievement have had little impact on equalization policy, and (d) policy decisions have been consistent with each state's political culture. Also, the data suggested that the responses of the three New England states have been representative of the responses across the country.