Since 1968 suits have been filed in at least ten states alleging that public school financing systems which rely primarily on local ad valorem property taxes are unconstitutional in that they violate the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The legal basis for this contention is that these systems make the quality of education dependent upon the wealth of the particular school district, thereby favoring school children who happen to live in a district having high property values and discriminating against children who live in districts having relatively little assessable property. Two basic social principles are involved: (1) the fundamental importance of a system of free public education in a democracy, and (2) the belief that a government should not discriminate between the rich and the poor in providing essential services. In an effort to bring recent developments into sharper focus, this article examines the issue of public school finance and the requirements of the equal protection clause from two perspectives. First, the recent series of "school tax cases" are examined in detail, with particular emphasis placed upon the Serrano v. Priest decision. An attempt is made to determine the effect that these cases will have on existing state education funding systems. Second, the Nebraska system's vulnerability to constitutional attack in light of recent decisions is considered.
Kenneth Stephan and Richard Wegener,
Financing Public Education: Recent Developments and the Outlook for Nebraska,
52 Neb. L. Rev. 77
Available at: http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/nlr/vol52/iss1/7