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School Funding Adequacy Trial Begins in Montana

Trial began on January 20, 2004 in State District Court in the Montana school funding adequacy case, Columbia Falls v. State. The lawsuit was originally filed in 2002 by the Montana Quality Education Coalition, an organization that represents state school districts, education groups, parents, and the state's teachers union. Plaintiffs claim that the current state finance system is unconstitutional and does not provide adequate, cost-based funding for Montana's public schools.

Plaintiffs' lead attorney Jim Molloy proclaimed in his opening arguments, as reported by the Helena Independent Record, ''The state of Montana is failing to meet its constitutional obligation with respect to school funding…This case is about the state providing what is necessary to provide a quality education.'' He has indicated that plaintiffs will call witnesses who will testify that educational programs have been slashed and students harmed due to inadequate resources.

As reported in the Record, plaintiffs' witnesses will also demonstrate a decline in the state's share of education funding and an increased reliance on local property taxes for public schools. Leading education finance experts and local school officials are expected to testify.

Attorneys for both sides have expressed their intention to appeal the court's decision to the Montana Supreme Court.


Prepared January 23, 2004