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Five Plaintiff Wins in the Last Year, Busy 2005 for Courts and Legislatures

In the last year alone, plaintiffs have won major victories in five school funding adequacy cases and settled in two. More courts are expected to issue decisions in 2005, and several cases are moving forward on appeal or toward trial. Advocates in other states are considering filing lawsuits to remedy the lack of access to educational opportunities for students in under-funded schools.


As a result of the 2005 plaintiff wins and pressure from pending and threatened cases, legislators and governors in many states must grapple with proposals to bring their education finance systems up to constitutional standards in their 2005 sessions, which begin this month. Some states face specific court orders and short-term deadlines.

The most imminent deadline is in Kansas, where the state must reform its school funding system by April 12, under threat by the Kansas Supreme Court of an imposed remedy, according to its January 3, 2005 decision. Montana and New York also need to comply with court orders in this year’s legislative sessions, and Arizona needs to resolve a long-standing state violation of the rights of its English language learner students. Texas will be attempting to reform its funding system in response to a 2004 lower court order, in the West Orange-Cove case, which is on appeal.

2005 Rulings Anticipated

A decision from the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court is expected in late January, in Hancock v. Driscoll, on the appeal of a lower court’s opinion in favor of plaintiffs. The New York remand court will also likely issue an order this month, in CFE v. State, on the state’s failure to comply with the 2003 Court of Appeals order (the Court of Appeals is the state’s highest court).

In Columbia Falls v. State, the Montana Supreme Court plans to issue a full opinion, after issuing an expedited and abbreviated decision in late 2004 so the legislature could remedy the state’s constitutional violation during its 2005 session. In addition, the South Carolina trial court ruling in Abbeville v. State is anticipated in the spring or summer. Moreover, the highest courts in Texas and Maryland are expected to rule on appeals by defendants in West Orange-Cove ISD v. Nelson and Bradford v. Maryland State Board of Education, respectively.

New Cases Being Planned

Potential plaintiffs in Michigan, Oklahoma, Connecticut, Tennessee, Florida, and California are considering filing school funding litigations in their states.

2004 in Review

For articles on the many 2004 court decisions, appeals, and new cases filed, link to:

Plaintiff Victory in Massachusetts
Plaintiff Victory in Montana
North Carolina Plaintiffs Win Major Victory
California Settles Williams School Funding Case
Judge Declares Texas School Funding Inadequate and Unconstitutional

Alaska Parents, Advocates, Educators File School Funding Lawsuit
Adequacy Lawsuit Seeks Better Future for Georgia
Nebraska Rural Schools File Adequacy Suit
Louisiana School Funding Lawsuit Filed

Court Orders Better Funding for Baltimore City Schools
Special Masters Recommend Billions for New York Schools
South Carolina, Missouri, and Arizona: Litigation Updates
Idaho Supreme Court Thwarts Attempt to End School Funding Suit
Kentucky Court Denies Motion to Dismiss
Legal Actions Counter Cuts in Florida and Maryland

School Funding Updates and the www.schoolfunding.info website will continue reporting on school funding litigations and related matters throughout the year.

Prepared by Molly A. Hunter, January 13, 2005