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EDUCATION RIGHTS CASES TO WATCH IN 2019

January 10, 2019

As the nation’s legal defense fund for education rights, Education Law Center supports and participates as counsel or as amicus curiae (friend of the court) in lawsuits challenging inequities in state public education systems. In 2018, new cases were filed and pending cases advanced in numerous courts to remedy state failures to provide adequate resources, funding, facilities and special education programs.

Here are some important cases we’re watching in 2019:

  • Kansas: In June 2018, the Kansas Supreme Court in Gannon v. State again found the state’s school finance system inadequate and unconstitutional. The court stayed its ruling and gave the State until June 2019 to achieve funding adequacy. In March 2018, a cost study commissioned by the Legislature concluded an additional $2 billion would be needed. The Legislature has until June 30, 2019 to comply.
  • Delaware: In January 2018, parents and other Delaware citizens filed the state’s first constitutional challenge to inadequate school funding in Delawareans for Educational Opportunity (DEO) and NAACP Delaware v. Carney. On November 27, 2018, the Delaware Court of Chancery denied the state’s motion to dismiss, finding a qualitative right to education in the Delaware constitution and a judicial duty to determine claims of inadequate funding. This case will now proceed to discovery and trial preparation.
  • New York: In NYSER v. State of New York, parents in the New York City, Syracuse, Schenectady, Central Islip, and Gouverneur school districts are challenging inadequate funding and essential resources. The discovery phase will continue in anticipation of a Spring 2020 trial.
  • Pennsylvania: In William Penn Sch. Dist. v. Pennsylvania Dep't of Education, a lawsuit challenging Pennsylvania’s inadequate school funding system, the trial court has cleared away procedural hurdles and scheduled a trial for Summer 2020. Discovery and trial preparation will be underway in 2019.
  • New Mexico: In July 2018, the trial court in Martinez v. State of New Mexico and Yazzie v. State found the school funding system inadequate and unconstitutional. The court ordered a remedy by April 15, 2019, directing the Legislature to “take immediate steps to ensure that New Mexico schools have the resources necessary to give at-risk students the opportunity to obtain a uniform and sufficient education that prepares them for college and career.” Plaintiffs’ attorneys, community partners and education stakeholders will be advancing an aggressive package of additional funding and reforms to lawmakers in early 2019.
  • Minnesota: In breaking new ground, the Minnesota Supreme Court in Cruz Guzman v. Minnesota has given the green light for a trial court do decide a claim that the de facto segregation of the Minneapolis-St. Paul public schools by race and socio-economics has deprived students of an adequate education under Minnesota’s constitution. Discovery will proceed in 2019.
  • Arizona: Discovery continues in Glendale Elementary Sch. Dist. v. State, a case filed in 2017 alleging the State’s system for funding school facilities is unconstitutional. The trial court has scheduled motions to address the merits of the case by September 2019.
  • Tennessee: Numerous Tennessee school districts, including Shelby County and Nashville, filed lawsuits challenging the state’s school funding system. In Hamilton County Bd. of Education v. Haslam and Shelby County Bd. of Educ. v. Haslam, the districts maintain that funding levels, among the lowest in the nation, are inadequate and violate the Tennessee Constitution. In 2018, the courts denied a motion to dismiss and assigned a new judge to the case. Trial is expected in 2019.
  • North Carolina: In February 2018, Judge David Lee appointed WestEd, an education research non-profit, to study and recommend a plan for the State to remedy the constitutional violation found in the Leandro v. State of North Carolina school funding case. WestEd must submit final recommendations to Judge Lee by March 31, 2019, and the parties will have the opportunity to respond to the recommendations. The Judge may order further proceedings to determine a final remedy.
  • Mississippi: A constitutional challenge by Jackson public school parents, Araujo v. Bryant, to a state law forcing districts to transfer locally raised funds to charter schools, is pending before the Mississippi Supreme Court. The appeal will be argued, and a ruling is expected, in 2019.
  • New Jersey: An appeal to the State’s decision to permit a 9,000-student expansion of charter school enrollment in Newark will be argued in January 2019. The case, In re Renewal Application of TEAM Academy Charter School, raises the State’s failure to comply with statutory and constitutional law requiring the State to evaluate fiscal impacts and student segregation on applications to expand charter schools.

In Latino Action Network v. New Jersey, filed in May 2018, plaintiffs are challenging the de facto segregation by race and socio-economics of New Jersey’s school districts statewide. A trial court rejected the State’s motion to dismiss. Absent a settlement, the case will move forward to trial.

  • Michigan: In 2018, a lawsuit by Flint parents and children challenging the failure to comply with special education law resulted in a partial settlement establishing an unprecedented “child find” mechanism to ensure children exposed to the lead crisis are properly screened and evaluated for disabilities. Claims seeking to redress the lack of programs and services for children with disabilities and excessive and improper discipline are set for trial in 2019.

ELC will continue to follow these and other important education rights cases throughout the coming year. Visit our website for these developments, or join our mailing list to receive updates on a regular basis.    

 

Press Contact:

Sharon Krengel
Policy and Outreach Director
skrengel@edlawcenter.org
973-624-1815, x 24