"First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win." -- Mahatma Gandhi

Court Rules In Favor of Missouri School Funding Formula

August 29th, 2007 by mopns · No Comments

Judge Callahan says state’s constitution is clear – public school funding formula is decided by Legislature not the court

Today, Cole County Circuit Court Judge Callahan issued an order, which disposes of most of the legal arguments, ruling in favor of the State of Missouri and against 262 school districts that challenged the school funding formula created by the legislature in 2006.

In summary, Judge Callahan determined that the law of Missouri is very clear in granting the State legislature with the power to set the public school funding formula. One remaining constitutional question exists and will be discussed at a hearing that is scheduled for later this month. That question is whether the State is meeting the constitutional requirement to spend 25% of its annual budget on education.

The State and the intervenor defendants, who contended that the funding formula had a rational basis, presented evidence from a number of expert witnesses that there was not a significant correlation between increased funding and increased performance.

Plaintiffs included the Committee for Educational Equality (CEE), the Committee to Fund Excellent Schools (CFES) and the St. Louis City School Board. CEE and CFES are made up of half of the State’s school districts, including the more affluent Clayton and Ladue districts. The plaintiffs argued that the formula was flawed and did not provide the resources necessary to meet state benchmarks of achievement. District experts proposed an increase of $1 billion per year in state spending to meet an adequate spending target.

There have been many school finance adequacy cases in recent years across the country. This case was unique because for the first time, three private citizens joined the State against a constitutional threat. Menlo Smith, Bevis Schock and Rex Sinquefield intervened as taxpayers. They contended that the Attorney General’s office, in defense of the state, had not taken sufficient depositions to defend taxpayers on a ruling that would affect them. The Attorney General’s office had taken only two depositions before the start of the trial. The intervenors spent close to $800,000 from private donations to pay for attorney’s fees and other case preparation expenses. In comparison, within the first three months of the trial, the defense intervenors participated in more than 60 depositions.

“In short, Judge Callahan’s ruling saves Missouri taxpayers more than a billion dollars,” said Sinquefield. “This proves that the plaintiffs tried to get something out of the State legislature and when they failed they went to the courts. The Judge fairly assessed, in our opinion, that the setting of the school funding formula clearly is the responsibility of the general assembly. The language of Judge Callahan is so strong, and the defeat of the plaintiffs so complete, that we should revisit the question of why these school districts felt compelled to spend taxpayer dollars to sue the taxpayers. Hopefully, this ruling will discourage the use of taxpayer dollars to sue the state.”

“Many common misconceptions about school performance, accountability and per pupil spending were brought to light because of this case. We hope that taxpayers and the media will take a close look at these revelations. It is critical that Missouri build an educational system that adequately educates our youth, places quality education within reach of all Missouri students and uses taxpayer money responsibly,” said Sinquefield.

It has been reported that the plaintiffs are considering an appeal of the decision to the Missouri State Supreme Court.

Related

Missourinet audio: Plaintiffs’ Attorney Alex Bartlett Plaintiffs’ Attorney Alex Bartlett (:22 MP3)

Senate Architect of Funding Formula is Pleased Senate Architect of Funding Formula is Pleased

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Tags: MO Legislature · Show Me Institute

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