Recent Events | Costing Out
In 1990, plaintiff taxpayers and students filed suit
against the governor and other state officials, contending
that Nebraska's statutory scheme for financing public
schools denied them equal and adequate educational opportunity
and uniform and proportionate taxation, in violation
of the state constitution. The trial court granted defendants'
summary judgment motion, holding that the revised funding
system enacted after the case was filed rendered the
claims moot. In a 4 to 3 decision, Gould v. Orr,
506 N.W.2d 349 (1993), the Nebraska Supreme Court concluded
that equal funding is not guaranteed by the constitution.
The Supreme Court also found that plaintiffs had failed
to allege that funding disparities result in "inadequate
schooling" and failed to demonstrate that the education
students in lower-spending districts are receiving did
not meet constitutional requirements. This holding appears
to have left the courthouse door open for a new lawsuit
based on an "adequacy" claim, something alluded
to in the concurring opinion.
In 2003, a group of Nebraska education organizations
released a costing-out
study conducted to determine the resources needed
to provide students the opportunity to meet state standards
and the requirements of the federal "No
Child Left Behind" Act. "Average Total
Expenditures" were calculated for six school district
sizes. The study did not include facilities, transportation,
The Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that educational adequacy
is non-justiciable on May 11, 2007, in Nebraska
Coalition for Educational Equity and Adequacy (NCEEA)
On February 6, 2007, the coalition of 40 rural Nebraska
school districts comprising the NCEEA argued before
the Nebraska Supreme Court that a judicial remedy was
necessary to address inadequacies in the state’s
public school funding system. The plaintiffs were appealing
an October 2005 district court ruling that dismissed
the case as raising “non-justiciable political
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit alleged that the state’s
school funding system did not provide adequate funds
for education, particularly for low-income students
and English language learners. Lawyers for the state,
however, argued that the state constitution does not
guarantee adequate education.
The decision follows the 2004 dismissal of a prior
adequacy claim, in Douglas County School District
v. Johanns, by a Nebraska trial court, for raising
non-justiciable political questions.
Trial is scheduled for September 2008 on the surviving
equity challenge in that case, which is now known as
Douglas County School District v. Heineman.
The Omaha Public Schools and other large school districts
are challenging the state’s education funding
system on the grounds that it is discriminatory toward
poor and minority students. The plaintiff districts
have a substantial number of ELLs, and claim that the
State has done little to address their needs.
Schools Trust website includes legal documents in
the Douglas County case.
Last updated: February, 2008