Arguments Heard on Whether South Dakota Districts Can Sue State

Last Updated: March 12, 2009

This article appeared in the February 2009 Rural Policy Matters.
The South Dakota Supreme Court has heard arguments on whether school districts can districts can participate in or help finance a lawsuit against the state. These constitutional questions are related to the state’s school funding lawsuit. A written ruling is expected soon. 
A coalition of school districts, representing more than a third of the state’s 300 school districts and including many rural districts, brought the lawsuit in 2006. But attorneys for the state claimed that the South Dakota Constitution prohibits state-created entities from using tax funds to sue the state. Last summer, Circuit Court Judge Lori Wilbur ruled that school districts do not have standing to sue the state, and that because of the constitutional prohibition, cannot pay for others to do so. 
Lawyers for school boards and districts appealed both decisions. The coalition withdrew from the case, which then went to trial in October with parent and student plaintiffs. The suit alleges that inadequate funding by the state is causing a constitutional violation of the state’s education clause, and that there is no relationship between the funds that are provided and the actual costs of providing an adequate education. Wilbur has not yet ruled on the funding questions
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Read more from the February 2009 Rural Policy Matters.