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By Anna Lukemeyer

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Extra info for Courts As Policymakers: School Finance Reform Litigation (American Legal Institutions)

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Courts will tend to evaluate equal protection claims in terms of a spending or resource object. H2. Courts will tend to evaluate equal protection claims in terms of an equality or access equality standard. H3. Courts will tend to evaluate education clause claims in terms of an outcome object. H4. Courts will tend to evaluate education clause claims in terms of a minimum adequacy standard. H5. In cases where the court addresses the issue of the uncertain relationship between expenditures and student outcomes, plaintiffs’ victories will occur more often when the court adopts a resource object.

The last two look at situations in which the court either concluded that education was not a fundamental right, or did not decide that issue. Cases recognizing education as a fundamental right. In the leading case of Serrano v. Priest (1971) (Serrano I), plaintiffs (who were parents and children in property-poor school districts) argued that the California school finance system violated the equal protection clause in two ways. First, property-poor school districts could not raise as much money per child and, therefore, provided plaintiff children with substantially inferior educational opportunities.

Smith (Wisconsin 1976), a suit brought by property-rich plaintiffs challenging school finance plans requiring redistribution of some local property-tax revenue. Finally, although it met the criteria for inclusion, I excluded Bismarck Public School District #1 v. State (North Dakota 1994). In that case, three of five judges found the school finance system unconstitutional under an equality standard, and two judges dissented with separate opinions. This case is difficult because North Dakota law requires a four judge majority to declare a statute unconstitutional.

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