Districts state that budgets are inadequate to meet all student needs. Children in poverty and the high rate of homelessness require more funding to provide tutoring, time and behavioral support. However, the defense argues:
- Districts advertise in their brochures that they offer high quality education.
- Districts certify that they are meeting needs of ESE, ELL homeless and other students.
- Districts are accredited. This certifies that appropriate programs are available.
Attorneys for the defense argue districts can get more money if they need it. Not all districts levy all potential millage. If more money is needed, they could raise it. They could also consolidate and have better management. Districts state that voters are reluctant to approve millage. Moreover, it is the state’s paramount duty to provide education, and it is shifting responsibility to districts. The defense argues that Article IX, Section 4 of the constitution says that districts are to operate their schools, so they should do what it takes e.g.
- Districts can go to local voters to increase operational funding.
- Districts can assess .5 cents for capital outlay with voter approval.
- Districts can assess 1.5 mills for capital outlay without voter approval.
Student achievement is either high quality or it is not. Standards either indicate quality or they do not. Accountability either motivates improved practices or narrows the curriculum and traumatizes students.
School choice issues emerge. Districts argue that students who leave take funding with them, but the schools must maintain the overhead costs regardless. Dividing available funds into three systems–charters, private schools, and traditional public schools is inefficient without appropriate accountability. A voucher representative argued that accountability was consumer based. If parents were unhappy, they could leave private schools.
Watching the process unfold is transfixing. The judge will have to weigh the evidence.