Lawsuits Planned in at Least Four States
Advocates in North
Dakota, Missouri, Nebraska,
and Kentucky are in the process of preparing
school funding adequacy lawsuits which they expect to file within the next six
In North Dakota and Missouri, groups of school districts have voted
to bring lawsuits and have hired attorneys to prepare cases against their states.
In both instances, the school districts point to inadequate and inequitable funding
and claim that they are turning to the courts only after trying to get their Legislature
to improve the state's education finance system.
The cases in Nebraska
and Kentucky would follow other lawsuits filed earlier this year in those states.
The new suit in Nebraska would be brought on behalf of rural schools and students,
while the Nebraska
Schools Trust, the Omaha Public Schools, and parents and school officials
filed an adequacy suit this June,
based on the need for funds to support higher standards, students learning English,
and disadvantaged students.
In Kentucky, the new potential plaintiffs are
led by the Council for Better Education, which brought the now-famous Rose
v. Council for Better Education case decided in 1989. That decision led
to major reform and improvement in Kentucky education and is often viewed as one
of the pivotal cases in the history of education finance litigations nationwide.
In January 2003, student and parent plaintiffs from south-central Kentucky filed
suit against the state, alleging inadequate funding for a "proper education."
Attorneys preparing all four cases, and potential plaintiffs considering
litigation elsewhere, explain that they are concerned about the lack of adequate
funds to be able to education students to be capable citizens and to compete for
employment in the global economy, including funds for programs needed to help
"at-risk" children succeed.
In related news, costing-out studies have been
performed in Kentucky and
Nebraska, and a study is currently underway in North Dakota. Among other issues
that are common across states, state
revenue shortfalls have contributed to (1) a dilemma in which higher state
and federal standards are undermined by spending cuts, and (2) an apparent shift
in school funding that homeowners say has burdened them with high and rising local
Prepared August 7, 2003