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From the school finance front - a landmark ruling?

School finance experts and education analysts are touting an April court decision as a landmark ruling. Alabama Circuit Court Judge Eugene Reese recently ruled that the state has failed to provide an "equitable and adequate education for all children."

The ruling was the first of many to deal with the question of what is an adequate level of funding to educate all children. Helen Hershkoff, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, who represented public school children in the case, noted that the Alabama decision "is a landmark because it recognizes that children have a right not only to an equitable education but also an adequate education."

"Alabama schools today fall far short of the very educational standards that the state of Alabama has determined are basic to providing its school children with minimally adequate educational opportunities," Reese wrote.

The plaintiffs, case was helped by pointing out Alabama's status in tax and fiscal rankings. "Students in our public schools receive inferior and inadequate educational opportunities compared with children in other states, and they are among the most poorly educated in the nation," the complaint noted.

Alabama ranks 51st among all states and the District of Columbia in property taxes; 34th in public school revenue per $1,000 in personal income; 47th in overall state and local taxes; 41st in state and local revenue for public schools per $1,000 in person al income; and 51st in total state and local public school revenue per pupil by average daily attendance.

Former Alabama Governor Guy Hunt (recently removed from office due to an ongoing ethics probe) was the lone defendant in the suit brought by a coalition of 22 poor school systems. Hunt responded to the decision by saying that "dollars alone won't solve the problems in the state's 450,000-student school system," and that the lawsuit was a move to force a $1 billion tax increase.

A controversial part of the decision is that it specifies criteria necessary for schools to meet constitutional muster. Among criteria given in the opinion were: students should possess sufficient skills in oral and written communication, mathematics and science to function in Alabama, and at national and international levels in the future; and there should be sufficient training in academic or vocational skills, and sufficient guidance, to enable each child to choose and pursue a career intelligently.

Legal purists hold the view that the court may have overstepped its bounds by suggesting what the legislative branch must do in response to the decision.
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Title Annotation:Alabama Circuit Court's ruling that the funding extended by Alabama to education of children is inadequate
Publication:State Legislatures
Date:Jul 1, 1993
Previous Article:Tough decisions in the Island State.
Next Article:Kaiser Commission reports on Medicaid.

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