School Funding Litigation

In 1973, the United States Supreme Court, in a case called Rodriguez v. San Antonio Independent School District, 411 U.S. 1 (1973), held that education is not a fundamental right under the federal constitution and that wealth is not a suspect classification. However, many states have clauses that provide for education in the state constitution. In most of the 50 states there has been some type of lawsuit or legal action to address education funding disparities.

Early school funding litigation efforts generally focused on education equity, which sought the same level of per-pupil funding for every student in the state. Since the late 1980’s, litigation has focused more on education adequacy, which seeks funding levels necessary to ensure that every student receives an adequate education. Defining what constitutes an adequate education as well as what resources are necessary to provide that level of education, have been central questions in the litigation. "Costing-out studies", which have been done in over 35 states, are one method which has been used to help calculate the amount of funds needed to provide students with an education that meets state standards. From 1989 to 2010, plaintiffs won 26 education adequacy cases and there a number of cases still pending in courts across the nation.