Conflicting Accounts

By David J. Hoff — October 19, 2004 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Chester E. Finn Jr. is an education analyst with knowledge and an opinion on just about any K-12 topic.

But, according to school finance advocates, he didn’t have his facts straight in recent courtroom testimony.

The Washington-based pundit appeared as an expert witness for New York state in a special hearing in front of the court-appointed advisers who will recommend a remedy in the state’s long-running school finance case.

Chester E. Finn Jr.

Shortly after Mr. Finn’s Oct. 1 testimony, the Campaign for Fiscal Equity posted an account of it on its Web site. “State’s ‘Expert’ Witness Proves He’s No Expert on New York Schools,” read the headline.

According to the summary, Mr. Finn failed to understand basic facts about the state’s study estimating the funding needed to comply with a 2003 court decision ordering the state to raise spending in New York City. He also failed to defend specific methodological approaches used in the state study conducted by the New York City-based Standard & Poor’s financial-analysis firm, the account said.

During cross-examination by a CFE lawyer, the account said, “it became apparent that Dr. Finn had neither thoroughly examined the state’s proposal nor the S&P study as the state’s lawyers claimed.”

Mr. Finn says the group’s version is an unfair depiction of his testimony. The state attorney general’s office, he said, asked him to explain how the ultimate resolution to the finance case would be affected by the accountability measures in the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

For almost half his time on the stand, Mr. Finn said, he answered questions about those issues posed by the three “special masters” appointed by a Manhattan trial-court judge. (“As Lawmakers Stall, N.Y. School Aid Case Gets ‘Special Masters,’” Aug. 11, 2004.)

“They were thoughtful questions,” said Mr. Finn, who is the president of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, a Washington think tank that supports charter schools, public school accountability, and vouchers. “They were trying to understand things.”

He said that while the CFE lawyer tried to undermine his credibility, that effort wasn’t as successful as the group’s account makes it seem.

“I wasn’t supposed to be an authority on school finance, and I wasn’t there to get into the weeds of the methodology” of the funding studies, Mr. Finn said in an interview last week. “But that’s what the CFE attorney wanted to do.”

Related Tags:


School & District Management Webinar Fostering Student Well-Being with Programs That Work
Protecting student well-being has never been more important. Join this webinar to learn how to ensure your programs yield the best outcomes.
Reading & Literacy Webinar 'Science of Reading': What Are the Components?
Learn how to adopt a “science of reading” approach to early literacy to effectively build students’ vocabulary and content knowledge.
School & District Management K-12 Essentials Forum Effective Communication for School Leaders: A Forum
Join us for an afternoon of discussions on how school and district leaders can motivate staff, make the most of social media, and more.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

States Opinion Some Politicians Count on Teachers Staying Silent. We Can't Afford To
Censorship laws send teachers the message, “We don’t trust you.” We need to speak up in defense of our profession.
Monte F. Bourjaily
4 min read
Conceptual illustration of a professional using tape to seal a giant silhouette's mouth with tape
States Divisions on Race, Gender Intensify a Fight for State Superintendent
The Arizona election for state superintendent illustrates the polarization engulfing K-12 policy nationwide.
9 min read
Outgoing Arizona schools chief Tom Horne asserts that a major school district in Tucson is violating a new state law by continuing an ethnic studies program designed primarily for Hispanics, pointing out a quotation from a textbook used in the class, at a news conference in Phoenix on Jan. 3, 2011. A federal judge in Tucson, in a finding made public Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2017, ruled that an ethnic studies ban in Arizona that shuttered a popular Mexican-American program was enacted with racial discrimination. The 2010 law dismantled the Tucson Unified School District program, launching months of protests by students and parents who said it enriched school performance.
Tom Horne, the Republican nominee for the Arizona schools superintendent position, says he would put an end to critical race theory and "indoctrination" if elected.
Ross D. Franklin/AP
States Election Guide 2022: K-12 Issues and Candidates Shaping the Midterms
Education is at the heart of some of the most contentious issues on voters' minds as they weigh candidates from governor to local school board.
13 min read
Illustration of voting.
DigitalVision Vectors
States Will California’s $4.1-Billion Bet on Community Schools Transform K-12 Education?
Community schools could vastly improve educational outcomes, but this high-cost experiment is no quick fix, experts say.
Laura Newberry, Los Angeles Times
8 min read
Counselor 1387286499 b