Excerpts From Kentucky Supreme Court's Opinion

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The following are excerpts from the Kentucky Supreme Court's majority opinion in Rose v. The Council for Better Education Inc.

Definition of 'Efficient'

In defining "efficient," we use all the tools that are made available to us. In spite of any protestations to the contrary, we do not engage in judicial legislating. We do not make policy. We do not substitute our judgment for that of the General Assembly. We simply take the plain directive of the constitution, and, armed with its purpose, we decide what our General Assembly must achieve in complying with its solemn constitutional duty.

Any system of common schools must be created and maintained with the premise that education is absolutely vital to the present and to the future of our Commonwealth. ...

The sole responsibility for providing the system of common schools is that of our General Assembly. ...

The General Assembly must not only establish the system, but it must monitor it on a continuing basis so that it will always be maintained in a constitutional manner. The state must carefully supervise it, so that there is no waste, no duplication, no mismanagement, at any level.

The system of common schools must be adequately funded to achieve its goals. The system of common schools must be substantially uniform throughout the state. Each child, every child, in this Commonwealth must be provided with an equal opportunity to have an adequate education. Equality is the key word here. The children of the poor and the children of the rich, the children who live in the poor districts and the children who live in the rich districts must be given the same opportunity and access to an adequate education. This obligation cannot be shifted to local counties and local school districts.

We do not instruct the General Assembly to enact any specific legislation. We do not direct the General Assembly to raise taxes. ...

We concur with the trial court that an efficient system of education must have as its goal to provide each and every child with at least the seven following capacities: (I) sufficient oral and written communication skills to enable students to function in a complex and rapidly changing civilization; (II) sufficient knowledge of economic, social, and political systems to enable the student to make informed choices; (III) sufficient understanding of governmental processes to enable the student to understand the issues that affect his or her community, state, and nation; (IV) sufficient self-knowledge and knowledge of his or her mental and physical wellness; (V) sufficient grounding in the arts to enable each student to appreciate his or her cultural and historical heritage; (VI) sufficient training or preparation for advanced training in either academic or vocational fields so as to enable each child to choose and pursue life work intelligently; and (VII) sufficient levels of academic or vocational skills to enable public-school students to compete favorably with their counterparts in surrounding states, in academics or in the job market.

The essential, and minimal, characteristics of an "efficient" system of common schools, may be summarized as follows:

(I) The establishment, maintenance, and funding of common schools in Kentucky is the sole responsibility of the General Assembly.

(2) Common schools shall be free to all.

(3) Common schools shall be available to all Kentucky children.

(4) Common schools shall be substantially uniform throughout the state.

(5) Common schools shall provide equal educational opportunities to all Kentucky childen, regardless of place of residence or economic circumstances.

(6) Common schools shall be monitored by the General Assembly to assure that they are operated with no waste, no duplication, no mismanagement, and with no political influence.

(7) The premise for the existence of common schools is that all children in Kentucky have a constitutional right to an adequate education.

(8) The General Assembly shall provide funding which is sufficient to provide each child in Kentucky an adequate education.

(9) An adequate education is one which has as its goal the development of the seven capacities recited previously.



We have decided one legal issue--and one legal issue only--viz., that the General Assembly of the Commonwealth has failed to establish an efficient system of common schools throughout the Commonwealth.

Lest there be any doubt, the result of our decision is that Kentucky's entire system of common schools is unconstitutional. There is no allegation that only part of the common school system is invalid, and we find no such circumstance. This decision applies to the entire sweep of the system--all its parts and parcels. This decision applies to the statutes creating, implementing, and financing the system and to all regulations, etc., pertaining thereto. This decision covers the creation of local school districts, school boards, and the Kentucky Department of Education to the Minimum Foundation Program and Power Equalization Program. It covers school construction and maintenance, teacher certification--the whole gamut of the common school system in Kentucky. ...

Just as the bricks and mortar used in the construction of a schoolhouse, while contributing to the building's facade, do not ensure the overall structural adequacy of the schoolhouse, particular statutes drafted by the legislature in crafting and designing the current school system are not unconstitutional in and of themselves. Like the crumbling schoolhouse which must be redesigned and revitalized for more efficient use, with some component parts found to be adequate, some found to be less than adequate, statutes relating to education may be reenacted as components of a constitutional system if they combine with other component statutes to form an efficient and thereby constitutional system.

Since we have, by this decision, declared the system of common schools in Kentucky to be unconstitutional, Section 183 places an absolute duty on the General Assembly to recreate, re-establish a new system of common schools in the Commonwealth. As we have said, the premise of this opinion is that education is a basic, fundamental constitutional right that is available to all children within this Commonwealth. The General Assembly should begin with the same premise as it goes about its duty. The system, as we have said, must be efficient, and the criteria we have set out are binding on the General Assembly as it develops Kentucky's new system of common schools. ...

The General Assembly must provide adequate funding for the system. How they do this is their decision. However, if the use of ad valorem taxes on real and personal property is implemented, the General Assembly has the obligation to see that all such taxed property is assessed at 100 percent of its market value. ... Moreover, because of the great disparities in local tax efforts, the tax rates must be uniform. ...

This decision has not been reached without much thought and consideration. We do not take our responsibilities lightly, and we have decided this case based on our perception and interpretation of the Kentucky Constitution. ... We view this decision as an opportunity for the General Assembly to launch the Commonwealth into a new era of educational opportunity which will ensure a strong economic, cultural, and political future.

Because of the enormity of the task before the General Assembly to recreate a new statutory system of common schools in the Commonwealth, and because we realize that the educational process must continue, we withhold the finality of this decision until the adjournment of the General Assembly, sine die, at its regular session in 1990.

Vol. 08, Issue 38

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