In the U.S. states, policy development can occur in multiple venues. In fact, the likelihood of policy success may be directly related to the policy arena chosen by advocates. In this article, we examine those conditions under which policy reform results in success within education finance reform.


We model the likelihood that successful reform may take place via courts, legislatures, or referenda, and whether it occurs over multiple policy events. We simultaneously estimate the relative probability of the occurrence of different possible policy events (judicial action, legislative action, and referendum) in a given state and year. Our data comprise an exhaustive analysis of all litigation and policy events in education finance over time (1971–2005), for all states.


Our findings indicate court-ordered policy reform will most likely take place when judicial ideology supports it, while legislative-ordered reform is meaningfully influenced by the passage of time. We also find that policy reform via direct democracy has a resounding and constraining effect on the other branches of government.


In our conclusions, we evaluate those scenarios in which reform will most likely occur within a specific policy venue, and the possible implications this may have for policy change in the states.