Education Law Center has filed amicus curiae, or “friend of the court,” briefs in Florida and Delaware, urging the courts to allow lawsuits challenging inadequate education funding and resources to proceed to trial.
Florida and Delaware make similar arguments in both cases: claims that inadequate school funding violates the education rights of students under their respective constitutions are “non-justiciable,” or purely “political questions” left entirely to the executive and legislative branches. As a result, these states argue, their courts have no jurisdiction over education rights claims, and the cases should be dismissed without even giving the plaintiff students and civil rights organizations the opportunity to present evidence at trial.
Florida and Delaware want to slam the courthouse doors shut to prevent students from having any judicial recourse to redress the denial of education rights guaranteed under their state constitutions.
The cases are:
- Citizens for Strong Schools v. Florida State Board of Education: This lawsuit, now before the Florida Supreme Court, challenges inadequate education resources and funding for disadvantaged students across the state. The high court will review a state appeals court ruling that claims under the Florida Constitution’s education article – which declares education a “fundamental value” and places upon the state the “paramount duty” of making “adequate provision” for a “safe, secure, and high quality system of public education” – are not permissible. The Supreme Court’s ruling on this threshold question will have a profound impact on the future of public education in Florida.
- Delawareans for Educational Opportunity and NAACP Delaware State Conference of Branches v. Carney: This lawsuit is the first challenge to Delaware’s failure to provide adequate funding and educational opportunity to public school children and the disparities in education outcomes and opportunity for students at risk from poverty, students with disabilities and English language learners. After the complaint was filed in January in the Chancery Court, the state moved to dismiss, arguing that the claims are not appropriate or amenable to court determination.
ELC’s amicus briefs argue that the Florida and Delaware legislatures, by adopting uniform curriculum content standards, assessment systems and accountability measures, have given the courts substantive benchmarks against which to evaluate the states’ failure to provide the funding and resources for students to achieve those academic standards. ELC also argues that Florida and Delaware should follow the majority of decisions by sister state courts, including the recent decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, finding similar claims of inadequate education under their state constitutions justiciable.
ELC, as the nation’s legal defense fund for education rights, supports advocates and attorneys working to advance education equity, adequacy and opportunity in courts across the country.
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