S.C. Supreme Court Rules for Poor School Districts

By Paul Gable

In a split 3-2 decision, the S.C. Supreme Court ruled the state was not providing necessary resources for a “minimally adequate” education in poorer school districts.

The ruling, filed November 12, 2014, ended a 21 year odyssey in a lawsuit initially brought November 2, 1993.

However, in ruling the state failed in meeting its constitutional duty to provide a “minimally adequate” education for all public school students, the court left remedies up to the parties of the lawsuit.

The court ruled both parties must come before the court with proposed remedies, in a reasonable time, “to address the constitutional violation announced today.” Rather than remanding the case  back to district court for remedies, the S.C. Supreme Court maintained jurisdiction in the case.

As part of this ongoing process, in 1999 the S.C. Supreme Court ruled “minimally adequate” education to include:

  1. The ability to read, write and speak the English language and knowledge of mathematics and physical science;
  2. A fundamental knowledge of economic, social and political systems, and of history and governmental processes; and
  3. Academic and vocational skills

Chief Justice Jean Toal, in the majority opinion, called the current system of state financing of school districts a “fractured system” and said it must be remedied. In other words, the General Assembly must come up with a modified funding formula for public education.

It should be fun watching the General Assembly, which for the past decade or so has seemed inclined to attempt to legislate toward a voucher funding system, wrestle with this new problem.

On a side note, it has always struck me as ironic that all South Carolina requires of its public school system is a “minimally adequate” education. Now, the S.C. Supreme Court has ruled the state is failing in achieving even that objective.

How low can you go?

View the full decision at: http://www.judicial.state.sc.us/opinions/HTMLFiles/SC/27466.pdf

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