Chicago Urban League Lawsuit makes school funding a civil rights matter

via a kind reader’s email. Matt Arado:

Illinois courts refused twice in the 1990s to enter the school-funding debate, saying the matter belonged with state lawmakers, not the judiciary.
The Chicago Urban League, which filed a new school-funding lawsuit against the state this week, believes it can make the courts rethink that position.
The lawsuit characterizes the school-funding question as a civil rights matter, alleging that the current system, which uses property taxes to fund schools, discriminates against low-income minority students, especially blacks and Hispanics.
Using civil rights law should ensure that the courts will hear the case this time around, Urban League Executive Vice President Sharon Jones said.
“Courts have been deciding racial discrimination cases for years,” she said, adding that the Illinois Civil Rights Act of 2003 didn’t exist during earlier school-funding cases.

Maudlyne Ihejirika:

A day after a civil rights lawsuit called the state’s school funding system discriminatory, those who have been battling inequities in the Chicago Public Schools were optimistic, pointing to a historic win in New York.
“The New York suit was successful, and very similar, so we’re hoping that case will set precedent,” said Julie Woestehoff of Parents United for Responsible Education.
As in Illinois, previous suits challenging New York State’s school funding system had failed. But in 1993, a coalition there filed suit alleging for the first time that the system had a “disparate racial impact” based on the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
After 10 years and several appeals, New York’s highest court ruled in 2003 in favor of the plaintiffs. Further appeals by New York’s governor ended with the Court of Appeals upholding the ruling in 2006 and ordering the state to meet a minimum funding figure. That new funding level was finally enacted in April 2007.
Those involved in two previous lawsuits in Illinois said that without the new “disparate impact” claim, the Chicago Urban League’s suit would face bleak prospects.


Notes and links on funding and education from Kansas City (where a judge ordered a massive spending increase during the early 1990’s and Texas.