[JURIST] The Chicago Urban League (CUL) [advocacy website] on Wednesday filed a lawsuit insisting that Illinois' current school funding scheme be declared unconstitutional in violation of the Illinois Civil Rights Act of 2003 [text]. CUL challenges [complaint, PDF] the state's method for raising and distributing education funds to local school districts, which it claims results in "constitutionally inadequate educational opportunities for hundreds of thousands of Illinois public school children." CUL asserts that the state's public school funding scheme is "fatally flawed" because it relies too heavily on local property taxes, therefore reinforcing past discrimination and ensuring that certain school districts have "no capacity to raise the revenues they desperately need to close the funding gap," explaining:
the continuous and unmitigated harm that results each year from the state's persistent failure to meet its constitutional obligation to treat all students equally, regardless of race or ethnicity, to provide all Illinois students with access to equal education opportunity and to provide a system of schools offering a "high quality" education, is irreparable and unconscionable.CUL President Cheryle R. Jackson said [press release]:
Our children, especially African Americans and Latinos, have been left behind because of poorly funded schools while their white counterparts in wealthy communities are thriving. Their basic right to a quality education is being denied. Through our litigation and civic engagement around this issue, we want to make sure no more children are given a second-class education.The Chicago Tribune has local coverage; Reuters has more.
Last year, the US Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] on New Mexico's public school funding system, and found that the US Department of Education is permitted by statute to refer to the number of students in a school district as well as the per-student expenditures in school districts when determining whether a state "equalizes expenditures" among public school districts.