State leaders say the South Carolina Supreme Court should reconsider its November ruling that South Carolina’s public school system is failing to meet its obligations to provide an adequate education for children in poor rural districts.
The court ordered state lawmakers to work with the eight rural school districts named in the lawsuit to identify the problems facing students in those districts and design a strategy to address them.
The lawsuit was filed by 29 predominantly rural school districts in 1993. A 1999 state Supreme Court ruling required the state to meet a “minimally adequate” education standard. The districts then argued that state lawmakers were not meeting that threshold, a claim with which the court agreed this November. The state’s high court re-heard arguments on the case in 2012.
But Gov. Nikki Haley, Attorney General Alan Wilson, and state legislators are asking the court to reconsider — saying the ruling did not account for a new funding plan that set aside an extra $180 million for education this current budget year. The new plan increased the amount that school districts receive for children living in poverty and also set aside more funds for technology in rural schools.
“The record before the court is more than sufficient to satisfy the constitutional standard that the court announced in 1999,” Bobby Stepp, who filed the petition on behalf of legislators, told South Carolina Radio Network.
The petition from the General Assembly also argues the ruling was ambiguous and overstepped judicial authority. In their filing, state legislators insisted money is not the issue — noting that some of the districts which filed the lawsuit are among the top in per-pupil state funding. House Speaker Jay Lucas and Senate President pro tempore Hugh Leatherman filed the petition on behalf of the General Assembly.
It’s rare for the Supreme Court to rehear a case within two months of a decision, but not unprecedented. The judges will consider the petition before deciding next year.