Legal Actions Counter Cuts to Funding in Florida and
Florida Lawsuit Challenges Decision to Give Poor
District Largest Cut
On June 30, the School
Board of Miami-Dade County filed for declaratory
and injunctive relief in Florida state court, challenging
a new funding formula enacted by the legislature for
the 2004-05 school year. Under the new scheme Miami-Dade
County, which educates 14.3% of the state's children,
would absorb 54% of scheduled state funding cuts. Miami-Dade
is a high-needs district with nearly twice the state's
illiteracy rate, one third of the state's total number
of students with limited English proficiency, a high
rate of poverty, and the second lowest graduation rate
in the state.
A section of the Florida Constitution directs the Commissioner
of Education to utilize a District Cost Differential
(DCD) in its calculation of the annual budget of each
school district. The Plaintiff School Board objects
to the legislature's decision, for the first time in
30 years, to change the basis of the DCD calculation.
The "market basket" methodology, used for
the last 30 years, compares costs, such as housing,
transportation, health care, food and goods, to calculate
cost differentials among districts. The new "amenities"
approach, adopted this year, bases cost differentials
on a comparison of salaries for certain jobs and profoundly
and adversely affects Miami-Dade.
Defendants in the case are James King, President of
the Florida Senate, Johnnie Byrd Jr., Speaker of the
Florida House of Representatives, Jim Horne, as Commissioner
of the Florida Department of Education, the Florida
Department of Education, and the State
Board of Education.
ACLU Challenges Funding Cuts to Baltimore City Schools
Hearings began on July 22 - 23, 2004 on a motion filed
by the ACLU of Maryland to prevent cuts to education
programs and services benefiting Baltimore City schoolchildren.
The ACLU is arguing that budget cuts that have eliminated
summer school for most students this summer and, for
the school year starting in September, would eliminate
250 teachers, increase class sizes, cut guidance counselors
and cut mentors for beginning teachers violate the court's
2000 decision in Bradford
v. Maryland State Board of Education and the
Students in Baltimore City made double-digit gains
this year on the Maryland School Assessments, after
programs such as summer school, beginning-teacher mentors,
and smaller class sizes had been put in place to raise
achievement. However, the ACLU complaint notes that,
despite these gains, the majority of students test at
a "basic" level reflecting "inadequate"
skills and that budget cuts would undermine future progress
A School District Financial Crisis
The ACLU argues that the duty to provide an adequate
education can not be compromised in the name of deficit
elimination. Ironically, a deficit of $58 million developed
over the last few years, after governance changes
won by the State in 1997 moved control of the schools
from a local (Baltimore City) board to an independent
school board appointed jointly by the Governor and the
Mayor and chosen from a list provided by the State Board
of Education. The State began an investigation of the
deficit in February and recently issued a report on
The State has justified the cuts to programs and services
on two grounds: first, there is a state law that requires
all school systems to balance their budget each year
and gives the city a year to catch up; and second, there
is a "Memorandum of Understanding" between
City Hall and the City Schools requiring any deficit
be paid off every two years.
The hearings are expected to conclude on August 3,
Prepared by Geneva McDaniel, July 27, 2004.