“Serrano” vs. the People
LAST year the California Supreme Court handed down a decision in the case of Serrano v. Priest that condemned the entire structure of public education in the nation’s most populous state. Represented by attorneys from poverty-law agencies and universities, the plaintiffs got a judgment that found the California school-finance system unconstitutional on the grounds that it deprived their children of “equal educational opportunity” and, consequently, of their fundamental right to success and happiness. Concluding that the existing system tied the resources reserved for education to each community’s wealth, the court proclaimed a new rule of “fiscal neutrality” according to which the state must not allow the level of spending for public schools to be “a function of wealth other than the wealth of the state as a whole.” California accordingly faces the prospect of devising a new system of school finance that would distribute the burden of paying for public schools equally throughout the state.
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