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Judge denies state's motion to dismiss school-funding lawsuit

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A lawsuit brought by parents and three school corporations regarding the state’s school-funding formula has been allowed to proceed, a Hamilton Superior judge ruled.

Hamilton Superior Judge Steven R. Nation denied Nov. 24 the state’s motion to dismiss the suit brought by Hamilton Southeastern Schools in Hamilton County, Middlebury Community Schools in Elkhart County, and Franklin Township Community School Corporation in Marion County, and parents on behalf of their children and other minor children. The suit Hamilton Southeastern Schools, et al. v. Mitch Daniels, Governor of the State of Indiana, et al., No. 29D01-1002-PL-198, was filed in February.

The schools argued that the state's non-uniform school-funding scheme has a negative impact on its students. The plaintiffs challenge the constitutionality of Title 20, Article 43 of Indiana Code, which sets out the state's scheme for distributing education funds to school corporations, saying it violates the Education Clause of the Indiana Constitution.

The suit says the three school corporations receive dramatically less funding than other school corporations. The suit also alleges the 2010 introduction of the restoration grant, which allows some corporations to make up losses in the baseline per-pupil funding level, will add to the disparity.

The state moved to dismiss the suit for failure to state a claim, but Judge Nation found the plaintiffs have standing to sue and their complaints should proceed. The judge noted how this litigation doesn’t present the same issues as Bonner v. Daniels, 907 N.E.2d 516 (Ind. 2009), in which public school students sued based on the premise that the Indiana Constitution imposes an enforceable duty on state government to provide a certain quality of education.

The Indiana Supreme Court justices voted 4-1 to dismiss that suit. They ruled even if Indiana's public school system falls short of where it should be in providing quality education, courts aren't constitutionally able to set standards or establish a financing formula because that's up to the General Assembly.

“In that case, the Supreme Court did not have before it whether the same Constitutional language maintains standards for ‘uniformity in education funding,’ as Plaintiffs in this case assert,” he wrote. “The issue in this case is not equality of educational outcomes, … The issue here is uniformity in funding.”

Attorney General Greg Zoeller released a statement on the ruling, reiterating his belief that the school corporations don’t have standing to sue and that only the General Assembly has the authority to change the school-funding formula. He also proposed that legislators prohibit school corporations from using state dollars to sue the state.

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  1. People have heard of Magna Carta, and not the Provisions of Oxford & Westminster. Not that anybody really cares. Today, it might be considered ethnic or racial bias to talk about the "Anglo Saxon common law." I don't even see the word English in the blurb above. Anyhow speaking of Edward I-- he was famously intolerant of diversity himself viz the Edict of Expulsion 1290. So all he did too like making parliament a permanent institution-- that all must be discredited. 100 years from now such commemorations will be in the dustbin of history.

  2. Oops, I meant discipline, not disciple. Interesting that those words share such a close relationship. We attorneys are to be disciples of the law, being disciplined to serve the law and its source, the constitutions. Do that, and the goals of Magna Carta are advanced. Do that not and Magna Carta is usurped. Do that not and you should be disciplined. Do that and you should be counted a good disciple. My experiences, once again, do not reveal a process that is adhering to the due process ideals of Magna Carta. Just the opposite, in fact. Braveheart's dying rebel (for a great cause) yell comes to mind.

  3. It is not a sign of the times that many Ind licensed attorneys (I am not) would fear writing what I wrote below, even if they had experiences to back it up. Let's take a minute to thank God for the brave Baron's who risked death by torture to tell the government that it was in the wrong. Today is a career ruination that whistleblowers risk. That is often brought on by denial of licenses or disciple for those who dare speak truth to power. Magna Carta says truth rules power, power too often claims that truth matters not, only Power. Fight such power for the good of our constitutional republics. If we lose them we have only bureaucratic tyranny to pass onto our children. Government attorneys, of all lawyers, should best realize this and work to see our patrimony preserved. I am now a government attorney (once again) in Kansas, and respecting the rule of law is my passion, first and foremost.

  4. I have dealt with more than a few I-465 moat-protected government attorneys and even judges who just cannot seem to wrap their heads around the core of this 800 year old document. I guess monarchial privileges and powers corrupt still ..... from an academic website on this fantastic "treaty" between the King and the people ... "Enduring Principles of Liberty Magna Carta was written by a group of 13th-century barons to protect their rights and property against a tyrannical king. There are two principles expressed in Magna Carta that resonate to this day: "No freeman shall be taken, imprisoned, disseised, outlawed, banished, or in any way destroyed, nor will We proceed against or prosecute him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land." "To no one will We sell, to no one will We deny or delay, right or justice." Inspiration for Americans During the American Revolution, Magna Carta served to inspire and justify action in liberty’s defense. The colonists believed they were entitled to the same rights as Englishmen, rights guaranteed in Magna Carta. They embedded those rights into the laws of their states and later into the Constitution and Bill of Rights. The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution ("no person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.") is a direct descendent of Magna Carta's guarantee of proceedings according to the "law of the land." http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/featured_documents/magna_carta/

  5. I'm not sure what's more depressing: the fact that people would pay $35,000 per year to attend an unaccredited law school, or the fact that the same people "are hanging in there and willing to follow the dean’s lead in going forward" after the same school fails to gain accreditation, rendering their $70,000 and counting education worthless. Maybe it's a good thing these people can't sit for the bar.

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