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Serrano vs. Priest Essay

The Serrano case originates from a class action filed by public-interest lawyers representing public school pupils of the state of California. The case tackled a pressing issue that time, the issue on equal access to education. Decided on August 30, 1971 by the California Supreme Court, this landmark case ruled that dependence on taxes on local properties to fund public schools was unconstitutional. This is due to a wide margin in taxable properties among districts that has schools in it.

This dependence on local funding was upheld as a violation of the equal protection clause provided by the California and United States Constitutions. This is because the opportunities on education by children depend on the tax paid by the residents in their location. The poorer their community, the lower tax they generate, the lower state funding for their education. Statistics showed that more than 60% of funds by public schools came from property taxes as compared to 35% of state funding, while the remaining percentage came from private donations.

The California Supreme Court failed to lay down definite remedy on the problem, although it suggested that there should be power equalization among districts that aims to allow communities of rich and poor to produce the same income from taxes for the same local rate. The legislature body of California adopted policies in compliance to the Court ruling. School districts that belong to poor communities now received more state funding (Fischel, 1989). Serrano vs. Priest II (California, 1977)

This case, commonly referred to as Serrano II is a succeeding decision upheld by the Supreme Court of California, in reference to the 1971 Serrano case. The Court upheld that the previous fiscal reforms on schools implemented by the state authorities are not enough. Because of this fact the Court laid down strict requirements to be followed throughout all the school districts in California. One of the requirements by the Court is for the legislative body to ensure that the state and local spending should not exceed the difference of $100 per pupil across the State.

This excludes the handicapped students who should be given more financial aid. Although the Court did not specifically required the $100 limit but it became the standard for conformity of this new ruling. The previous fiscal policy of district power distribution was considered complicated. This is the reason why the $100 rule was easily accepted for it can be monitored easily. Because of this ruling, a law was signed by the governor in September of 1977 that goes for the compliance of the $100 standard.

On the day before the landmark response of the legislature to Serrano II, the votes of California supported through ballot initiative what is now known as the Proposition 13. The Proposition 13 is Constitutional amendments that intend to lower down the property taxes impose all through out the state without compromising the Serrano doctrine (Coon, 199). Van Dusartz vs. Hatfield (Minnesota, 1971) This case is a landmark decision in the State of Minnesota just right after the highly celebrated Serrano case of the State of California.

The decision state that the school finance system of Minnesota based on the school district wealth is a violation of the 14th amendment to the United States Constitution, the equal protection clause. After the decision, Minnesota then revised their public financing on primary and secondary schools. The system now changes from local spending on education that relies heavily on property taxes to one which centralizes the financing from revenues of the state. In Minnesota, state funding on public schools also varies depending on the property taxes paid on a certain school district.

The state uses centralized school finance to equalize its spending on every school district. It includes state foundation aid and power equalization. State foundation aid is the fund assigned so that the amount of public spending on every pupil is the same for every district. While power equalization revenues standardized spending per pupil although taxes based on properties re not the same. The state aid funding is higher for poor district and lower on wealthy districts.

Because of this landmark decision the educational spending in Minnesota was reformed from a complicated system of equalization aid, categorical aid and foundation aid that are heavily reliant on local and state financing. This complex financial structure makes it difficult to monitor and assess its efficiency. The main basis of the Serrano and Van Dusartz v Hatfield decisions is the scenario that any drop on the value of property tax in area will also resulted to the decrease on the school’s fund.

Because of this case, the state of Minnesota now relies on state funding on its public school system. To lower the margin between the poor and wealthy school district, the state implemented reforms. They are now imposing levies on wealthier school districts, approved by majority of the taxpayers therein, to finance other poorer school districts (Knowles, 2005). Edgewood Independent School District vs. Kirby (Texas, 1989) The Constitution of Texas states that a comprehensive dissemination of education and learning is vital on preserving the liberties and rights of the people.

Moreover, the Legislature and State have the noble duty on establishing and making provisions suitable for the maintenance and continuation of free schools in an efficient system. The petitioners of this case prayed the Supreme Court to review the decision of appellate court reversing a lower court judgment which holds that the financial system of public schools of Texas is a violation of the state Constitution. Same with the previous cases, the system in question generates its public spending to schools from local property taxes.

In Texas, it is 700 times more property wealth the wealthiest districts compared to those coming from poorer districts. This resulted to adequate funds to offer quality education and services. Because of this, the Supreme Court of Texas made a landmark decision on affirming the lower court’s decision that declares the financial system of the state is a violation of the state constitution. The Court said that the very system is not addressing the wide margin between the wealthy and poor school districts, just because of its ability to generate revenue.

This is a violation of the state and Constitutional provision of equal diffusion of education in the state, thus making the system unconstitutional. Although the court does not suggest a particular solution to the problem, it sets a deadline for the legislature to build up a new financing scheme (Williams, 1997). Reference: Coon, A. (1999). Separate And Unequal: Serrano Played an Important Role in Development of School-District Policy. Miller Star Regalia. Retrieved April 17, 2009, from http://library. findlaw. com/1999/Dec/1/129939. html ESCR-Net. (2008). Edgewood Independent School District v.

Kirby. Cited as: 777 S. W. 2d 391 (Tex. 1989). Accessed April 17, 2009, from http://www. escr-net. org/caselaw /caselaw_show. htm? doc_id=401076 Fischel, W. (1989). Did Serrano Cause Preposition 13? National Tax Journal, 42, 465-472. Retrieved April 17, 2009, from http://ntj. tax. org/wwtax/ntjrec. nsf/0 /a1723c9dfcacb8c58525686c00686da2/$FILE/v42n4465. pdf Knowles, G. (2005). Equity Issues in the State of Minnesota School Finance. Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Williams, J. (1997). Development in School Finance. Retrieved April 17, 2009, from http://books. google. com/books? id=9_pLoUkjYzQC


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