Ryan to Receive Award for Scholarship on Education Law

October 20, 2008

Law School Academic Associate Dean James Ryan will receive the 2008 Steven S. Goldberg Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Education Law next month at the Education Law Association's annual conference.

James Ryan
Professor James Ryan

The ELA selected Ryan as the recipient of the annual award for his Texas Law Review article, "Standards, Testing, and School Finance Litigation."

"It is a well-researched article combining the education finance issues of adequacy, equity, comparability and the academic standards requirements of No Child Left Behind," said Professor Philip T.K. Daniel of Ohio State University, a former ELA president who called Ryan's work "ground-breaking research."

"The reader is presented with a very clear picture that standards can be manipulated and have little place in determining whether students are receiving an appropriate education, and more, whether the state is financially supporting its responsibility for such an education."

In the article, Ryan asserts that courts should rely on comparative analysis of school districts rather than legislated standards such as those created by the No Child Left Behind Act to decide the cases of plaintiffs seeking better school funding.

"Focusing on comparability of resources is a more promising approach because it establishes a goal that is harder to manipulate than the goal of meeting state-defined standards," Ryan wrote in the article. "The reason is simple: States are loath to prevent property-rich districts from spending locally raised revenues on their own schools. If those districts provide the benchmark against which adequacy is measured, states will have less ability to game the system because they cannot do so without hurting property-rich, politically powerful school districts."

Ryan received his undergraduate degree from Yale University and his J.D. from Virginia in 1992. He was previously awarded a prestigious Gibbons Fellowship that provided the opportunity to work on New Jersey school finance litigation.

In 1998, Ryan joined the Law School faculty. He was appointed academic associate dean in 2004, and also serves as the William L. Matheson & Robert M. Morgenthau Distinguished Professor of Law and Joseph C. Carter, Jr., Research Professor.

Established in 1954, the Education Law Association is a national nonprofit located at the University of Dayton. ELA promotes interest in and understanding of the legal framework of education and the rights of students, parents, school administrators, school boards and school employees in public and private K-12 educational institutions, as well as higher education.

The Steven S. Goldberg Award is presented annually in recognition of an outstanding article, book, book chapter or other form of scholarly legal writing and recognizes a work of scholarly excellence that impacts education law.

Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.

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