NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Suing When Schools Fail

January 12, 1999

A coalition of civil rights groups is suing Florida in the state's court for failing to educate tens of thousands of children.

  • The 31-page complaint names 19 school children -- all members of minorities from poor schools, where a large percentage fail state reading and math exams.
  • It cites the state constitutional requirement that "adequate provision shall be made by law for a uniform system of free public schools" and says the state has failed to live up to that guarantee.
  • Those bringing the suit contend Florida has not met its own minimum standards and protest that it is ranked in the lowest five to 10 states in education.
  • Similar suits have been filed in Alabama, North Carolina, Ohio and Connecticut -- but the Florida suit is unusual, observers report, because it focuses on educational adequacy, rather than racial imbalances or the inequality of educational resources or spending.

Legal observers report less attention is now being given to desegregation matters and more paid to educational adequacy -- a trend encouraged by the courts.

While only 19 children were specifically named, the suit was filed on behalf of 1.4 million pupils -- one-third of whom have failed state exams -- in all schools where an adequate education toward functional literacy had not been provided.

Source: Ethan Bronner, "Rights Groups Suing Florida for Failure to Educate Pupils," New York Times, January 9, 1999.


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