The June 4 editorial on school finance reform {"Equity in Texas -- Maybe"} suggests that states use only two methods for financing schools. Under the first, a foundation program, the state guarantees a "floor" amount per pupil, and local districts supplement that amount according to the will of the voters and the wealth of the district.

Under the second approach, the state mandates that all districts spend the same basic amount per student. The editorial correctly notes that the first approach permits wealthier districts to spend more on their students than poorer districts, while exercising less tax effort, and the latter approach denies voters in local districts the right of adjusting rates of spending to match their particular preferences.

This view overlooks important recent advances in school finance. A survey by Prof. Deborah Verstegen of the University of Virginia points out that more than one-fourth of the states now fund their schools using an approach deliberately designed to overcome the disadvantages of former systems. These programs allow voters in local school districts to determine the level of spending in their respective jurisdictions. However, under these programs, per-pupil spending is determined only by the degree to which voters are willing to tax themselves. As a result, wealthy districts no longer have an advantage.

Under these programs, all districts that exert the same tax effort receive identical dollars per student. Admittedly, special provisions in actual school finance legislation sometimes lessen the impact of such programs. Nonetheless, the concepts of these systems are sound.

Foundation programs and systems that mandate identical spending across the state are becoming obsolete. They are being replaced by progressive school finance systems that honor the democratic tradition of local voter determination. However, these systems are deliberately designed to ensure that all voters have equal access to educational funds, irrespective of the wealth of the district in which they happen to reside.

JAMES N. FOX Education Research Specialist U.S. Department of Education Washington