Teachers, School Spending, and Educational Achievement: Toward A New Wave of School Quality Litigation

Nipun Kant, Yale Law School


Over the past half century, school quality litigation has overwhelmingly targeted state-level school finance systems. Though this has thankfully increased funding in public schools, student achievement has not increased by equal proportions. Amidst this context, new research over the past decade has illustrated the dramatic effects of individual teachers on student learning. This Article draws on such research to argue that a new brand of litigation challenging the inequitable or inadequate distribution of teacher quality may be viable. It examines the legal rationale of school finance decisions, putting forward a novel classification system according to the extent to which they create a viable opportunity for litigation targeting teacher quality. In making this argument, the Article also offers a broader critique of the manner in which courts use social science evidence for judicial fact-finding. Last, the Article evaluates a recent case that has received national news coverage, Vergara v. California, as a case study for how my theory of litigation may work in practice.