State Finance Lawsuits Roil K-12 Funding Landscape
Rulings complicate policymakers' choices
As state budgets slowly recover from several years of economic contraction and stagnation, significant court battles continue to play a related yet distinct role in K-12 policy, even in states where the highest courts have already delivered rulings on the subject.
This year, meanwhile, marks the 40th anniversary of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that was a turning point for the role of property taxes in financing school districts and that continues to complicate fiscal decisions for state policymakers. The 5-4 ruling, in San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez , held that the state did not have to justify the higher quality of education for wealthier districts that might result from their local property taxes.
In a 2008 article for the Virginia Law Review , Judge Jeffrey Sutton of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, based in Cincinnati, wrote: "For better, for worse, or for more of the same, the majority in Rodriguez tolerated the continuation of a funding system that allowed serious disparities in the quality of the education a child received based solely on the wealth of the community in which his parents happened to live or...
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