By Anna Lukemeyer
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20 Courts as Policymakers For various reasons, legal scholars argue that adequacy suits are likely to be more easily won by plaintiffs (Heise 1995; Enrich 1995; Thro 1994; McUsic 1991). First, unlike suits based on equal protection clauses, those based on education clauses have less impact on other substantive legal areas. Due to this limited impact, courts may be more willing to recognize a new duty under an education clause and, as a result, more likely to recognize an adequacy standard (Thro 1994).
36 The two-decision analytic framework grew from my simultaneous analysis of both equal protection and education clause claims. Although it more directly reflects the legal reasoning applied to education clause claims, it also worked well for most equal protection claims, and was compatible with courts’ language and reasoning. 42 Courts as Policymakers (or district residents’ wealth) forms a suspect class, and that, therefore, the court must apply strict scrutiny to the school finance system. Defendants commonly contend that school finance involves neither fundamental rights nor suspect classes, that rational-basis scrutiny is appropriate, and that the school finance structure should be upheld since it is rationally related to the legitimate state interest of local control of education.
In Serrano I, plaintiffs claimed that the California school finance system resulted in substantial disparities in spending per pupil, and in the quality and extent of educational opportunities across school districts, in violation of state education and equal protection clauses. In essence, plaintiffs claimed that inequality in spending (and the resulting inequality in educational opportunities) violated these constitutional provisions. Apparently ignoring any implications with respect to educational opportunities, and instead interpreting plaintiffs’ claim as raising only issues of spending, the court concluded that the education clause did not require equal spending, and denied the plaintiffs’ education clause claim without more.
Courts As Policymakers: School Finance Reform Litigation (American Legal Institutions) by Anna Lukemeyer