Suit Challenges Virginia's School-Finance System

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A coalition of Virginia school districts last week filed a long-awaited lawsuit challenging the state's school-finance system.

The plaintiffs said they will wait until the end of next year's legislative session, however, before serving papers against state officials--an act that would set the legal challenge into motion.

Andrew P. Miller, the lawyer for the Coalition for Equity, said the districts decided to sue after concluding that the state school board's funding request for the 1992-93 school year continued to promote inequities between wealthy and poor districts.

The lawsuit filed in Richmond increases the pressure on Gov. L. Douglas Wilder to offer finance-reform legislation and on the legislature to address the issue.

Keeping the Pressure On

By not formally serving court papers, the districts prohibit lawmakers from dodging the complaint as they have on other issues wrapped up in litigation. Mr. Miller said the lawsuit's filing, which comes as the first-term Governor begins his run for the Democratic Presidential nomination, is on track with the poor districts' timetable and in harmony with the coalition's efforts seeking decisive legislative action rather than a court fight.

Many Virginia school administrators have complained that state leaders' reluctance to confront the school-finance issue, coupled with state-aid cuts forced by the weak economy, have exacerbated the gap between wealthy and poor districts.

State officials, meanwhile, have promised to tackle the funding issue, but argue that their ability to approach the costly reforms has been hamstrung by the recession that continues to grip the state.--L.H.

Vol. 11, Issue 13, Page 19

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