Dr. A. E. Rodriguez

"Give Chance a Chance: Can Allocation by Sortition Resolve the Connecticut Education-Financing Impasse?"
Wednesday, March 23, 2011 at 2:00 p.m. in the Marvin K. Peterson Library


Connecticut has been attempting to sort out its education-financing mechanism for over 30 years – ever since Horton v. Meskill (1977). Many formulas and approaches have been proposed, alas, to no avail. The situation remains at an impasse. In this talk Dr. Rodriguez will examine the roots of the dispute and propose and discuss the benefits of allocation by lottery as a plausible solution to the problem.


It has been over 30 years since Connecticut embarked on ensuring the constitutionally prescribed right to education by challenging the prevailing mechanism for allocating education financing monies. Many formulas and approaches have been proposed in response to various legal challenges seeking redress. Underscoring plaintiff's claim in legal proceedings is the view that plaintiffs drew the short straw in the moral luck calculus.


We argue that the impasse turns - in part - on differing subjective appraisals of the role of individual agency in the observed achievement gap. There are, of course, other inputs into the educational process. But it is this perception of agency that heavily influences the general population's political choices. The other reasons raised in rebuttal - for example those emphasizing the insidious effects of higher taxes or other such distributive mechanisms on production and innovation incentives - don't seem to raise much of a popular concern.


The existing institutional framework appears to have cemented this worldview in a situation that has little chance of a meaningful resolution. We note the perplexing conundrum in which we - Connecticut - find ourselves in the worst possible outcome. Why? We conclude that the problem is a social dilemma: the parties involved are individually powerless to resolve. Sortition mechanisms - allocation by lottery - have been known to effectively resolve social dilemmas. We examine the possibility of relying on lots to resolve the allocation of educational monies.

Biographical Information

A.E. Rodriguez is an Associate Professor of Economics at the University of New Haven. He writes on decision making under uncertainty and regulation. Dr. Rodriguez recently co-authored a book (with Ashok Menon, a former student of his) titled: the Limits of Competition Policy (Kluwer Law, 2010). This talk is based on a joint work with Professor Lesley DeNardis.


Dr. Armondo Rodriguez's web site.