BRIEF: School Choice in the States September 2016
LEGISLATION AND LITIGATION
In Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding v Jodi M. Rell, the Superior Court in Hartford ruled, on September 7, that Connecticut’s school funding formula is irrational and its method of distributing education funding is unconstitutional, giving the state 180 days to propose a new formula. On September 20, the Connecticut Supreme Court accepted the case as requested by the state and ordered a stay of the 180 day requirement.
Florida’s national teachers’ union affiliate, the Florida Education Association, continues its fight to take away quality education from almost 100,000 children who are receiving tax-credit scholarships to attend the schools of their choice. After two years of litigation in McCall v Scott, two Florida courts have ruled they lack standing to sue because they have suffered no injury. Undeterred, on September 18 they filed an appeal to the Florida Supreme Court, asking the court to rule that they have the right to sue to stop the scholarship program.
On September 20, opponents of Georgia’s tax-credit scholarship program filed their opening brief at the Georgia Supreme Court. The case, Gaddy v Department of Revenue, is on appeal after the lower court ruled against plaintiffs based on standing and various constitutional provisions. The Institute for Justice has intervened in the case on behalf of parents.
The Kansas Supreme Court heard arguments in Gannon v Kansas, a school funding case of many years, on September 21. The court indicated an interest in focusing their review only on the one-third of Kansas’ students who are receiving an inadequate education. Plaintiffs, the Wichita, Kansas City, Hutchinson and Dodge City school districts, oppose the Kansas method of funding education; they disagreed with the court, asking for a ruling that would increase school funding by at least $800 million in additional funding per year and would not limit use of those funds to students receiving an inadequate education only.
Proponents of educational choice were permitted to intervene in a case brought against Mississippi’s charter schools by the Southern Poverty Law Center. On September 28, the Chancery Court of Hinds County ruled in Araujo v Bryant that the Mississippi charter schools association and Midtown charter school parents and partners may intervene in the litigation to protect a parent’s right to choose the best school for their children. A hearing is set for April 4, 2017, with trial set for May 22, 2017.
The Nevada Supreme Court issued its consolidated ruling in the Duncan v. State of Nevada and Lopez v. Schwartz cases on Sept. 29. The court upheld the constitutionality of the state’s nearly universal education savings account (ESA) program, but called for a new funding source. The program is still unable to operate for the thousands of student applicants. State leaders are working on a different funding method for the program, and may consider implementing a new funding method in a special session in October. For more about these two cases, the official court opinion and our president and CEO’s response to the ruling, check out “Nevada ESA Litigation: What You Need to Know.” Follow us on Twitter @edchoice for real-time updates as developments happen.
IN OTHER NEWS
-The Iowa Alliance for Choice in Education hosted their annual School Choice Summit on September 13. Rep. Walt Rogers, Iowa’s 2016 legislative ESA champion addressed the summit on the likelihood of ESA legislation during the 2017 legislative session. In its current form, this potentially groundbreaking legislation would be the first truly universal, unencumbered educational choice program in the country. EdChoice Director of State Incubation Ed Failor presented information on the national momentum behind educational choice programs, specifically ESAs.
-The Texas Senate Committee on Education held an interim hearing on ESAs on September 13. EdChoice experts and local school choice advocates provided written and oral testimony to the committee.
-The Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute (TCCRI) hosted two policy summits this month. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick keynoted both summits, and several state legislators were in attendance. EdChoice President and CEO Robert Enlow delivered remarks to provide a national perspective on school choice and joined a panel on September 20 in Houston. The second TCCRI Policy Summit took place in Dallas on September 27. Vice President of Programs Leslie Hiner delivered opening remarks and joined a panel to discuss how to address potential objections to educational choice.
-Hiner traveled to Capitol Hill on September 13 to speak about school choice in the states to leaders of the Association of Christian Schools International at their Legal Legislative Conference. The next day, Leslie attended the 25th anniversary dinner of the Nevada Policy Research Institute in Las Vegas, featuring noted author P.J. O’Rourke.
-Hiner and American Enterprise Institute fellow Gerard Robinson spoke on September 21 about breaking barriers to education at the National Summit of the Center for Urban Renewal and Education (CURE) at the National Press Club.