The Expanding Role of the Courts in Educational Policy: The Preschool Remedy and an Adequate Education
by Benjamin Michael Superfine & Roger D. Goddard - 2009
Background/Context: Over the past half-century, the courts have played an increasingly important role in educational governance and decision-making. However, since the courts began to take such an active role in education, the efficacy and effectiveness of judicial intervention in education remain uncertain. Largely in response to problems that they have persistently faced in education litigation in the past, courts ruling in several recent school finance reform cases have begun to experiment with new types of remedial orders requiring the implementation of particular educational programs or systems of governance. Free preschool for students constitutes the most common of these educational programs recently ordered by courts.
Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: This study examines and analyzes the trend of courts to experiment with new remedial orders requiring the implementation of particular educational programs or systems of governance by analyzing the judicial consideration of preschool programs in two major school finance cases in New Jersey and North Carolina.
Research Design: This study frames its analysis in the legal literature examining the courtsí role in educational policy, the particular legal and historical contexts of school finance reform litigation, and the educational research evaluating the effectiveness of preschool. Using historical case study analysis and methods more traditionally associated with legal analysis, this study analyzes the opportunities and pitfalls of the preschool remedy and the implications for the imposition of other like remedies.
Conclusions: This study concludes that, although the preschool remedy is well designed to respond to some major problems that courts have persistently faced in school finance reform litigation, courts have considered the preschool remedy inconsistently and in an oversimplified fashion that does not reflect nuances in the underlying research on preschool. Moving forward, courts need to find a middle route that allows them to respond to problems they have faced in the past while treating scientific research in a more nuanced fashion.
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