Like many other states, Missouri has gone through several rounds of school finance litigation. However, the trial just concluded was unusual in two respects. First, three taxpayers were allowed to intervene for the defense and, in the process, raise important questions concerning the efficiency of school spending and broader questions of school reform. Second, the outcome at the circuit court level, which focused nearly entirely on points of law, was a complete victory for the defense. This article provides an overview of disputes of Missouri school finance and evidence pertaining to some of the points in dispute at the trial. These lessons generalize to other states facing school finance litigation. The authors conclude that changes in school funding formulas, and the seemingly interminable litigation about those formulas, are not an effective vehicle for addressing achievement gaps or the overall level of school performance.


About the Author

Matthew Springer

Michael Podgursky
Michael Podgursky is a professor of economics at the University of Missouri–Columbia, where he served as department chair from 1995 to 2005.