Batool Alsamadi Philosophy of Law Dr.

Bohman, TR 12:45-2 4-17-97 [due] Essay Set #2

A Flawed System
"The fact is that a large part of our society is disintegrating, so large a part that it cannot help but affect the rest. Everyone's future is at stake, and not just the poor's" -New Jersey Supreme Court

In 1973, it was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court that education was not a fundamental right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. Since Rodriguez v. San Antonio, there has been a persistent problem in the finance system for education. While the U.S. Supreme Court has maintained its confidence in delivering "adequate" education to all, the following will show why their decision to reverse Rodriguez v. San Antonio did not work to establish equality. First, I will go through the initial ruling of Rodriguez v. San Antonio to show why the Western District Texas Court worked to establish equality; I will then go through the U.S. Supreme Courts' arguments to show how their arguments work against the interest in preserving sound and fair justice; lastly, I will prescribe solutions that operate off Dworkin’s and Rawl’s conceptions of justice. The inequality of education funding is traced back to the unequal property tax bases, which is the majority of funds for education. Other funds come from state support, and a small amount from federal government. The allegations brought on by the plaintiffs charged that the Texas school financing is reliant on local property taxes which inevitably favors the wealthier, and therefore, is unconstitutional according to the equal protection requirements. The district court ruled in favor with these claims concluding that the system did not show a compelling state interest for the system. According to the district court’s ruling, social status was the suspect classification, and education was a fundamental right, and the court further ruled that if education was a principle interest, the Texas school financing system had failed to show so. Therefore, the court also ruled that the State’s financing system did not have a rational basis. According to Dworkin’s theory of equality, the district court ruled in the name of equality, and not at the expense of equality. When citizens have no control over their situation or choices, their liberty is being stripped away when they are constrained to live in a poor school district. These citizens cannot just relocate to another area that provides a better school district, mainly because they cannot afford to live in these areas, thus inhibiting their choices. This proves evidence that social status was the suspect classification. Furthermore, according to Rawl’s conception of justice, these citizens have no exposure to an equality of circumstance since equality is a result of one’s choices. Because social class can effect one's circumstances, it should still be equally important in the scheme of social cooperation. From this point of justice, we need to separate choices and circumstances, as the district court initially did when realizing such

a flawed finance system was based on wealth. In order to equalize social cooperation, we must maximize the needs of the poorer school districts in Texas. With the growing disparity between the wealthiest and the least privileged increasing, the distribution of property has never been more unequal. According to Rawl’s conception of justice, it would have been plausible if the Texas financing system was ordered to steer a greater amount of its state grants to the poorer school districts than the wealthier ones. The wealthier districts would be receiving less and thus unequal – however, since the wealthier school districts are not in dire need of such funds compared to the poorer school districts, inequality inflicted on wealthier school districts would occur only because it is helping to elevate a shortcoming of the poorer school district to achieve equalization. Rawl’s conception of justice permits for such inequalities to occur when they are arranged in ways that benefit the least well-off in society; or an infliction of inequality is connected with making opportunities of office positions open to all. Providing the same education to all students allows the same opportunities to be open for all. With these glaring disparities of education funding, the U.S. Supreme Court has still rejected the challenges. The U.S. Supreme Court is becoming growingly antagonistic towards equalizing education fund, contending that the issue is a legislative matter, or has been very reluctant to go very far in specifying remedies. When the State of Texas appealed at the district court’s ruling, the U.S. Supreme court reversed the decision, stating that there is no substantial evidence that shows a certain class in this system was disadvantaged; that the system did not interfere with the exercise of fundamental rights and liberties; and that the system did not violate the equal protection clause under the Fourteenth Amendment because the state is only held liable to provide a “basic” education for each pupil. The reasoning behind each of these claims are invalid, as provided below. Arguably, seeing what it has taken for kids from the wealthier districts to succeed ( e.g. having a higher percentage graduate high school, having a higher percentage of graduates go on to 4-year universities, etc.) as compared to the poorer school districts, there is no excuse for states not to equalize funding. Allowing an unequal education achievement to occur is the source of poverty and related family crisis (Karp, 2003). If people living in the poorer school districts received the same education as the wealthier school districts, perhaps after the second generation of better educated citizens, the local, state, and federal government would spend less money on fighting crimes, and funding welfare/social programs – and more over, they would generate more income tax that would come from more better educated people – which in turn benefits society. Operating on this sequence of logic, Dworkin further argues that having a school system that finances all districts equally is a part of equal distribution – mainly because such resources are detrimental to our liberties. The district court’s initial ruling was in favor of preserving liberty for all. Though the U.S. Supreme Court denies the obstruction of liberty, a deep analysis proves otherwise. Liberty is not only at stake when the freedom of opportunities and choices are being taken away; but also because many communities have never been so segregated by race and class, it becomes inevitable that schools heavily dependent on property taxes will be unequal. In the end, this current finance system is delivering a

drastically different educational experience for each class, race, and backgrounds. Thus, the growing racial divide between those most likely to vote in political elections and the public school population will keep communities divided under this current finance system. This is undeniably working against Rawl’s conception of liberty – that such liberties that are crucial for a member of society should be guaranteed to everyone at the same time. The current education financing system is flawed in many ways. Having political votes on drastic tax cuts, particularly in favor of the wealthiest, is no good for anyone. Doing so would only swell up the state and federal deficits, in turn starving our public services, which ends up redirecting the wealth upward. Doing so is inflicting an inequality on the less well-off, working against Rawl’s conception of justice With the federal court siding with our current education financing system, it seems as if the system is set up in a way to keep the lower class poor and needy in order to fill in the "dirty jobs" ( e.g. custodians, trash collectors, etc.) – because who else would take these positions if everybody were to become successful? In the famous Abbott vs. Burke case, a New York Appeals Court admitted to this when it wrote, "Society needs workers at all levels" when defending that a middle school education is sufficient in meeting New York legal requirements (Karp, 2003). These kinds of attitudes are alarming when assuming this is a country that operates off a constitution that is implicit of liberty in countless ways. When schooling in the United States is required until a certain level in high school, it is hypocritical to be asked to comply by law, but being provided with unequal resources in doing so. Seeing that more resources are going to certain groups of citizens which help them comply by this law is a revelation that shows our system is favoring certain citizens, and thus, an obstruction of the equal protection clause. This observation of our current system is prohibiting a “starting gate” opportunity referred by Dworkin’s conception of justice. According to this theory, when certain school districts are wealthier than the others, it gives their students a “head jump” in the race – making more opportunities open for them while those from the poorer school districts are still trying to catch up. The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in overturning Rodriguez vs. San Antonio is flawed since they failed to see that this system is clearly based on unequal opportunities. For any remedy and solution in this case, according to Rawl's conception of justice, it should be a remedy that most people would agree to. Rawl's demonstrates this through his Social Contract Theory. If the U.S. Supreme Court justices deleted everything to their knowledge about their own present social positions they hold in society (Veil of Ignorance) they would have ruled in a way that maximized justice. If the U.S. Supreme justices were about to enter a society without any knowledge of which social positions they will receive, they would have kept the initial ruling of Rodriguez vs. San Antonio that worked towards achieving equalization. In doing so, it ensures that no matter what social position they receive, they know they will be given a fair share and opportunity. Given the Veil of Ignorance, we would all agree to an equal worth of liberty – that we should all have as much liberty as possible but still the same amount of liberty as everyone else. Some solutions offered have been an on-going debate in education funding reform. One suggestion has been "recapturing " which is redistributing the property tax from the wealthier school

districts and redirection those revenues to the poorer ones, which operates on the plausible inequalities prescribed by Rawl’s as discussed earlier. Another solution offered has been replacing property taxes with other taxes (sales taxes) and have the state devote a larger portion of overall school spending. Instead of a state giving a "flat grant " from its sales taxes to each school, it should instead use a foundation formula which is calculated in ways where equalization can be achieved. This process prescribes to Dworkin's goal of liberalism; that we are not treating the school districts equally, but rather we treat the school districts as equals. For example, when the state gives a "flat grant" from its sales taxes to each school, it does so in an equally way. However, if the Texas school financing system had the state grants formulated based on need in order to achieve more equalization among the school districts, this would of been treating school districts as equals. Another strategy used in some countries of the world, the federal level is responsible in making up for the losses in less-privileged regions when the states' grants fall short to compensate the poorer school districts to be equal like the rest (Karp, 2003). Operating on Dworkin's goal of liberalism, a sound solution in treating people as equals would be a solution as this: the wealthier school districts that garner more property tax can keep those funds, and the federal level should assume to make up those losses in the lessprivileged school districts. Logically, it makes sense for the federal level to assume responsibility for the losses that the state could not compensate for since they are the overseeing power of the state. However, the American government is not set up this way. It is marveling how the U.S. government can shrug its shoulders at the short funds in our education systems, yet is capable of making funds miraculously appear when allocating billions of dollars for national defense and costly interstate highway constructions. The priorities of the government are clearly misdirected. If we continue in this flawed system, we shouldn't be so surprised as to why American school kids fair as the "dumbest" compared to school children from other parts of the world.

Works Cited (among lectures and supplemental readings) Karp, Stan. “State-by-State Battle For Funding Equity Gets Mixed Results”. Money, Schools and Justice, v. 18 no. 1. New York; 2003.

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