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ACCUSE TENNESSEE OFFICIALS OF VIOLATING THEIR CONSTITUTIONAL DUTY
Nashville, TN -- On August 31, 2015, the Shelby County Board of Education
(SCBE) filed an educational opportunity and school funding case alleging "dereliction" of
duty on the part of the Governor and other state officials under the state
constitution, in Shelby
County Bd. of Educ. v. Haslam. Plaintiffs seek additional funding
sufficient to educate its students.
Plaintiff's complaint highlights
the state constitution, which requires the state to provide an
and adequate education to all children in Tennessee. The State
must offer students "at least the opportunity to acquire general
knowledge, develop the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally
prepare students intellectually for a mature life," quoting the
Tennessee Supreme Court.
According to the complaint, "drastic cuts because of a lack of
funding" prevent SCBE from providing "all of its students with
a free, adequate, and equitable education," in accordance with
the state constitution and state statutes. SCBE claims that the
state has also failed to fulfill its own funding statute and, further,
has added unfunded mandates, such as computer-based tests without
enabling schools to have basic computer capacity.
"While the Tennessee legislature has been adept at mandating a
host of reforms on their schools, teachers and students, they preside
over one of the most unfair school funding systems in the nation," said
David Sciarra, of the Education
Law Center and co-author of Is
School Funding Fair? A National Report Card.
Plaintiff articulates specific educational needs among its students
and the programs and services that have proven effective in meeting
those needs. However, plaintiff claims it has been forced to eliminate
these programs and services and to increase class sizes due to
the State's underfunding.
Moreover, the complaint recounts deep cuts to professional development
for educators and negative impacts on its physical facilities,
safety and security, and transportation.
"Make no mistake. This is a battle to save public education for
public school children in public schools," said Alan Rupe, one
of the Lewis Brisbois attorneys for Shelby County Schools. "Tennessee
and Kansas are two of several states fighting to uphold their constitutions,
fighting to provide their children an adequate and equitable education,
and fighting for free and appropriate public schools. As Teresa
Jones, Shelby County Board of Education chairwoman said, 'now is
the time for Tennessee to step up and fulfill its Constitutional
obligation to support our students.'" Mr. Rupe also serves plaintiffs
in the Kansas Gannon litigation.
To right the violations alleged, plaintiff seeks:
- The court's judgment finding that the State has failed
to adequately fund education in violation of both the Tennessee
Constitution and its own funding statute;
- The court's judgment finding that the imposition of "school
fees" to fund a "free public education" violates the state
- The court's judgment finding that the State's inadequate
funding and imposition of fees has had especially damaging
effects on the disadvantaged students, students with disabilities,
those of foreign origin that the school district serves; and
- A court order requiring the State to provide an adequate
and equitable free education to all Shelby County School District
The Shelby County Board of Education (SCBE) governs and operates
the Shelby County School District, which includes Memphis and its
surrounding county and is the state's largest school district.
The complaint states that the county board of education "brings
this case on behalf of itself, the District, its teachers, and
The defendants are state officials, including Governor William
Haslam, legislative leaders, the Education Commissioner, and the
members of the State Board of Education. The plaintiff filed in
the Chancery Court of Davidson County, home of the state capital,
Earlier this year, seven of the state's county school systems
filed a similar educational opportunity and school funding case,
in Hamilton County Bd. of Educ., et al. v. Haslam.
They also filed in the state capital, in Davidson County Chancery
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