Delaware Public Media

Judge rules Delaware has Constitutional obligation to educate children

Nov 27, 2018

A lawsuit calling for the First State to change how it funds its public education system survived another challenge Tuesday.

The lawsuit brought by the ACLU and Delawareans for Educational Opportunity argues the state is failing to give all children equal access to adequate education.

In an opinion issued Tuesday, a Court of Chancery judge denied the Carney administration’s motion to dismiss the part of the lawsuit dealing with inequities in the state’s funding formula. The judge said the Delaware Constitution obligates the state to create a public school system that successfully educates children.

"In my view, a court should measure Delaware’s public schools against the standards that the political branches have established, at least absent an egregious scenario involving a demonstrated failure by the political branches to establish meaningful standards," Vice Chancellor J. Travis Laster said. "A court must also take into account and afford due deference to the political branches’ efforts to address the multi-faceted and ever-evolving challenges inherent in designing and implementing an educational system. No system will be perfect. Ultimately, however, the Education Clause contains a qualitative component, and a complaint can state a claim for a violation of the Education Clause if it sufficiently alleges - as is undisputed here - that the State has failed to meet it."

The opinion cites assessment scores for 11th and 12th graders from the 2016-2017 school year showing that 10 percent or less of students with disabilities and English Language Learners met state standards in reading, essay writing and math.

Richard Morse, is among the attorneys for the groups filing the suit. He says there’s a direct correlation between the lack of resources and the poor education disadvantaged students receive. “The local school districts have limited money because of the way the state has set things up and they just don’t have the money to provide the support that the children need if they’re going to be educated adequately," he said. "And that’s way the state’s violating the Constitution.” 

Incoming State Rep. Nnamdi Chukwuocha applauds the judge’s decision. He represents part of Wilmington and says things need to change, especially in city schools.

“It was our state government that took away the City of Wilmington’s school district," he said. "It was the state government that created this four district model, so they are directly to blame.”

Chukwuocha praises Gov. John Carney and former Gov. Jack Markell for working to help the neediest schools.

A spokesman for Carney said the governor is committed to investing in Delaware's schools and providing additional support and resources for disadvantaged students.

Ed Lawsuit Dismiss Decision by Delaware Public Media on Scribd