The Shelby County school sytstem has filed a lawsuit against the state of Tennessee, alleging that the state has failed to “equitably and adequately fund public school education for all students.”
In the lawsuit, the district, which includes the city of Memphis, accuses the state of withholding funds and disproportionately hurting children in impoverished areas. At least 75 percent of students in the district are economically disadvantaged, district data indicate.
The suit highlights hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts Shelby County has made in recent years, moves that have led to hundreds of job losses, larger class sizes, school closures, and concerns about student safety.
The Memphis Commercial-Appeal reports that state lawmakers have “never fully funded” the formula for public school allocations, and that Shelby County could pull in $103 million more per year if the state did.
With the lawsuit, the district is seeking acknowledgement that the current state funding level is unconstitutional, and an injunction requiring the state to fulfill the requirements of its funding formula.
As this blog reported in March, Tennesee Gov. Bill Haslam previously said that legal proceedings would make it more difficult to resolve the funding issue. Haslam, Education Commissioner Candice McQueen, and members of the state board of education are listed as defendants in the lawsuit.
“Our students deserve fair treatment - access to a quality education and a fair opportunity to lead a successful life,” Teresa Jones, chairwoman of the Shelby County Board of Education said in a statement. “However, we have had to constantly cut resources, lay off needed staff members, and remove programs that can help our students remain competitive. In a time when academic and career standards are increasing, our students need more resources.”
The Shelby County school lawsuit comes less than six months after seven Tennessee school districts in the Chattanooga and Hamilton County areas sued the state, arguing that it has insufficiently funded local school districts as required by state law.
A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.