Adequacy as a concept or philosophy has recently emerged as part of school finance literature and policy in South Africa. Broadly defined as sufficient input levels to ensure student achievement of learning goals, adequacy has roots in school finance litigation in the United States of America. A review of school finance literature shows different conceptions of adequacy; as an input measure, an educational outcome measure, and a legal theory. The realisation that equity was not easily attainable, led plaintiffs in North American states to embrace and pursue adequacy as an alternative to, or step in the direction of attaining equity. The evolution of the school funding debate from equity to adequacy in the United States has relevance to the South African context, with obvious limitations. This article explores the promises and limits of adequacy in the South African context.