San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez/Opinion of the Court

San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez
Opinion of the Court by Lewis Franklin Powell, Jr.
Court Documents
Case Syllabus
Opinion of the Court
Concurring Opinion
Dissenting Opinions

[p. 4] Mr. Justice Powell delivered the opinion of the Court.

This suit attacking the Texas system of financing public education was initiated by Mexican-American parents whose children attend the elementary and secondary [p. 5] schools in the Edgewood Independent School District, an urban school district in San Antonio, Texas.[1] They brought a class action on behalf of school children throughout the State who are members of minority groups or who are poor and reside in school districts having a low property tax base. Named as defendants[2] were the State Board of Education, the Commissioner of Education, the State Attorney General, and the Bexar County (San Antonio) Board of Trustees. The complaint [p. 6] was filed in the summer of 1968 and a three-judge court was impaneled in January 1969.[3] In December 1971[4] the panel rendered its judgment in a per curiam opinion holding the Texas school finance system unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment[5].

The State appealed, and we noted probable jurisdiction to consider the far-reaching constitutional questions presented. 406 U.S. 966 (1972). For the reasons stated in this opinion, we reverse the decision of the District Court.


The first Texas State Constitution, promulgated upon Texas' entry into the Union in 1845, provided for the establishment of a system of free schools.[6] Early in its history, Texas adopted a dual approach to the financing of its schools, relying on mutual participation by the local school districts and the State. As early as 1883, the state constitution [p. 7] was amended to provide for the creation of local school districts empowered to levy ad valorem taxes with the consent of local taxpayers for the "erection...of school buildings" and for the "further maintenance of public free schools."[7] Such local funds as were raised were supplemented by funds distributed to each district from the State's Permanent and Available School Funds.[8] The Permanent School Fund, its predecessor established in 1854 with $2,000,000 realized from an annexation settlement[9], was thereafter endowed with millions of acres of public land set aside to assure a continued source of income for school support.[10] The Available School Fund, which received income from the Permanent School Fund as well as from a state ad valorem property tax and other designated taxes[11], served as the disbursing arm for most state educational funds throughout the late 1800's and first half of this century. Additionally, in 1918 an increase in state property taxes was used to finance a program providing free textbooks throughout the State.[12]

Until recent times, Texas was a predominantly rural State and its population and property wealth were spread [p. 8] relatively evenly across the State.[13]Sizable differences in the value of assessable property between local school districts became increasingly evident as the State became more industrialized and as rural-to-urban population shifts became more pronounced.[14] The location of commercial and industrial property began to play a significant role in determining the amount of tax resources available to each school district. These growing disparities in population and taxable property between districts were responsible in part for increasingly notable differences in levels of local expenditure for education[15].

In due time it became apparent to those concerned with financing public education that contributions from the Available School Fund were not sufficient to ameliorate these disparities[16]. Prior to 1939, the Available School Fund contributed money to every school district at a rate of $17.50 per school-age child.[17] Although the amount was increased several times in the early 1940's,[18] [p. 9] the Fund was providing only $46 per student by 1945.[19]

Recognizing the need for increased state funding to help offset disparities in local spending and to meet Texas' changing educational requirements, the state legislature in the late 1940's undertook a thorough evaluation of public education with an eye toward major reform. In 1947, an 18-member committee, composed of educators and legislators, was appointed to explore alternative systems in other States and to propose a funding scheme that would guarantee a minimum or basic educational offering to each child and that would help overcome interdistrict disparities in taxable resources. The Committee's efforts led to the passage of the Gilmer-Aikin bills, named for the Committee's co-chairmen, establishing the Texas Minimum Foundation School Program[20]. Today, this Program accounts for approximately half of the total educational expenditures in Texas.[21]

The Program calls for state and local contributions to a fund earmarked specifically for teacher salaries, operating expenses, and transportation costs. The State, supplying funds from its general revenues, finances approximately 80% of the Program, and the school districts are responsible—as a unit—for providing the remaining 20%. The districts' share, known as the Local Fund Assignment, is apportioned among the school districts [p. 10] under a formula designed to reflect each district's relative taxpaying ability. The Assignment is first divided among Texas' 254 counties pursuant to a complicated economic index that takes into account the relative value of each county's contribution to the State's total income from manufacturing, mining, and agricultural activities. It also considers each county's relative share of all payrolls paid within the State and, to a lesser extent, considers each county's share of all property in the State.[22] Each county's assignment is then divided among its school districts on the basis of each district's share of assessable property within the county.[23] The district, in turn, finances its share of the Assignment out of revenues from local property taxation.

The design of this complex system was twofold. First, it was an attempt to assure that the Foundation Program would have an equalizing influence on expenditure levels between school districts by placing the heaviest burden on the school districts most capable of paying. Second, the Program's architects sought to establish a Local Fund Assignment that would force every school district to contribute to the education of its children[24] but that would not by itself exhaust any district's resources.[25] Today every school district does impose a property tax from which it derives locally expendable [p. 11] funds in excess of the amount necessary to satisfy its Local Fund Assignment under the Foundation Program.

In the years since this program went into operation in 1949, expenditures for education—from state as well as local sources—have increased steadily. Between 1949 and 1967, expenditures increased approximately 500%.[26] In the last decade alone the total public school budget rose from $750 million to $2.1 billion[27] and these increases have been reflected in consistently rising per-pupil expenditures throughout the State.[28] Teacher salaries, by far the largest item in any school's budget, have increased dramatically—the state-supported minimum salary for teachers possessing college degrees has risen from $2,400 to $6,000 over the last 20 years.[29]

The school district in which appellees reside, the Edgewood Independent School District, has been compared throughout this litigation with the Alamo Heights Independent School District. This comparison between the least and most affluent districts in the San Antonio area serves to illustrate the manner in which the dual system of finance operates and to indicate the extent to which substantial disparities exist despite the State's impressive progress in recent years. Edgewood is one of seven public school districts in the metropolitan area. Approximately 22,000 students are enrolled in its 25 elementary [p. 12] and secondary schools. The district is situated in the core-city sector of San Antonio in a residential neighborhood that has little commercial or industrial property. The residents are predominantly of Mexican-American descent: approximately 90% of the student population is Mexican-American and over 6% is Negro. The average assessed property value per pupil is $5,960—the lowest in the metropolitan area—and the median family income ($4,686) is also the lowest.[30] At an equalized tax rate of $1.05 per $100 of assessed property—the highest in the metropolitan area—the district contributed $26 to the education of each child for the 1967-1968 school year above its Local Fund Assignment for the Minimum Foundation Program. The Foundation Program contributed $222 per pupil for a state-local total of $248[31]. Federal funds added another $108 for a total of $356 per pupil.[32]

Alamo Heights is the most affluent school district in San Antonio. Its six schools, housing approximately 5,000 students, are situated in a residential community quite unlike the Edgewood District. The school population is predominantly "Anglo," having only 18% Mexican-Americans [p. 13] and less than 1% Negroes. The assessed property value per pupil exceeds $49,000,[33] and the median family income is $8,001. In 1967-1968 the local tax rate of $.85 per $100 of valuation yielded $333 per pupil over and above its contribution to the Foundation Program. Coupled with the $225 provided from that Program, the district was able to supply $558 per student. Supplemented by a $36 per-pupil grant from federal sources, Alamo Heights spent $594 per pupil.

Although the 1967-1968 school year figures provide the only complete statistical breakdown for each category of aid,[34] more recent partial statistics indicate that the previously noted trend of increasing state aid has been significant. For the 1970-1971 school year, the Foundation School Program allotment for Edgewood was $356 per pupil, a 62% increase over the 1967-1968 school year. Indeed, state aid alone in 1970-1971 equaled Edgewood's entire 1967-1968 school budget from local, state, and federal sources. Alamo Heights enjoyed a similar increase under the Foundation Program, netting $491 per pupil in 1970-1971[35]. These recent figures [p. 14] also reveal the extent to which these two districts' allotments were funded from their own required contributions to the Local Fund Assignment. Alamo Heights, because of its relative wealth, was required to contribute out of its local property tax collections approximately $100 per pupil, or about 20% of its Foundation grant. Edgewood, on the other hand, paid only $8.46 per pupil, which is about 2.4% of its grant.[36] It appears then that, at least as to these two districts, the Local Fund Assignment does reflect a rough approximation of the relative taxpaying potential of each.[37]

[p. 15] Despite these recent increases, substantial interdistrict disparities in school expenditures found by the District Court to prevail in San Antonio and in varying degrees throughout the State[38] still exist. And it was [p. 16] these disparities, largely attributable to differences in the amounts of money collected through local property taxation, that led the District Court to conclude that Texas' dual system of public school financing violated the Equal Protection Clause. The District Court held that the Texas system discriminates on the basis of wealth in the manner in which education is provided for its people. 337 F.Supp., at 282. Finding that wealth is a "suspect" classification and that education is a "fundamental" interest, the District Court held that the Texas system could be sustained only if the State could show that it was premised upon some compelling state interest. Id., at 282-284. On this issue the court concluded that "[n]ot only are defendants unable to demonstrate compelling state interests...they fail even to establish a reasonable basis for these classifications." Id., at 284.

Texas virtually concedes that its historically rooted dual system of financing education could not withstand the strict judicial scrutiny that this Court has found appropriate in reviewing legislative judgments that interfere with fundamental constitutional rights 39 or that involve suspect classifications.[39] If, as previous decisions have indicated, strict scrutiny means that the State's system is not entitled to the usual presumption of validity, that the State rather than the complainants must carry a "heavy burden of justification," that the State must [p. 17] demonstrate that its educational system has been structured with "precision," and is "tailored" narrowly to serve legitimate objectives and that it has selected the "less drastic means" for effectuating its objectives[40], the Texas financing system and its counterpart in virtually every other State will not pass muster. The State candidly admits that "[n]o one familiar with the Texas system would contend that it has yet achieved perfection."[41] Apart from its concession that educational financing in Texas has "defects"[42] and "imperfections,"[43] the State defends the system's rationality with vigor and disputes the District Court's finding that it lacks a "reasonable basis."

This, then, establishes the framework for our analysis. We must decide, first, whether the Texas system of financing public education operates to the disadvantage of some suspect class or impinges upon a fundamental right explicitly or implicitly protected by the Constitution, thereby requiring strict judicial scrutiny. If so, the judgment of the District Court should be affirmed. If not, the Texas scheme must still be examined to determine whether it rationally furthers some legitimate, articulated state purpose and therefore does not constitute an invidious discrimination in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.


The District Court's opinion does not reflect the novelty and complexity of the constitutional questions posed by appellees' challenge to Texas' system of school financing. In concluding that strict judicial scrutiny was required, [p. 18] that court relied on decisions dealing with the rights of indigents to equal treatment in the criminal trial and appellate processes[44], and on cases disapproving wealth restrictions on the right to vote [45]. Those cases, the District Court concluded, established wealth as a suspect classification. Finding that the local property tax system discriminated on the basis of wealth, it regarded those precedents as controlling. It then reasoned, based on decisions of this Court affirming the undeniable importance of education[46], that there is a fundamental right to education and that, absent some compelling state justification, the Texas system could not stand.

We are unable to agree that this case, which in significant aspects is sui generis, may be so neatly fitted into the conventional mosaic of constitutional analysis under the Equal Protection Clause. Indeed, for the several reasons that follow, we find neither the suspect-classification nor the fundamental-interest analysis persuasive.


The wealth discrimination discovered by the District Court in this [case, and by several other courts that have recently struck down school-financing laws in other States[47], is quite unlike any of the forms of wealth discrimination [p. 19] heretofore reviewed by this Court. Rather than focusing on the unique features of the alleged discrimination, the courts in these cases have virtually assumed their findings of a suspect classification through a simplistic process of analysis: since, under the traditional systems of financing public schools, some poorer people receive less expensive educations than other more affluent people, these systems discriminate on the basis of wealth. This approach largely ignores the hard threshold questions, including whether it makes a difference for purposes of consideration under the Constitution that the class of disadvantaged "poor" cannot be identified or defined in customary equal protection terms, and whether the relative—rather than absolute—nature of the asserted deprivation is of significant consequence. Before a State's laws and the justifications for the classifications they create are subjected to strict judicial scrutiny, we think these threshold considerations must be analyzed more closely than they were in the court below.

The case comes to us with no definitive description of the classifying facts or delineation of the disfavored class. Examination of the District Court's opinion and of appellees' complaint, briefs, and contentions at oral argument suggests, however, at least three ways in which the discrimination claimed here might be described. The Texas system of school financing might be regarded as discriminating (1) against "poor" persons whose incomes fall below some identifiable level of poverty or who might be characterized as functionally "indigent,"[48] or [p. 20] (2) against those who are relatively poorer than others[49], or (3) against all those who, irrespective of their personal incomes, happen to reside in relatively poorer school districts[50]. Our task must be to ascertain whether, in fact, the Texas system has been shown to discriminate on any of these possible bases and, if so, whether the resulting classification may be regarded as suspect.

The precedents of this Court provide the proper starting point. The individuals, or groups of individuals, who constituted the class discriminated against in our prior cases shared two distinguishing characteristics: because of their impecunity they were completely unable to pay for some desired benefit, and as a consequence, they sustained an absolute deprivation of a meaningful opportunity to enjoy that benefit. In Griffin v. Illinois, [p. 21] 351 U.S. 12 (1956), and its progeny,[51] the Court invalidated state laws that prevented an indigent criminal defendant from acquiring a transcript, or an adequate substitute for a transcript, for use at several stages of the trial and appeal process. The payment requirements in each case were found to occasion de facto discrimination against those who, because of their indigency, were totally unable to pay for transcripts. And the Court in each case emphasized that no constitutional violation would have been shown if the State had provided some "adequate substitute" for a full stenographic transcript. Britt v. North Carolina, 404 U.S. 226, 228 (1971); Gardner v. California, 393 U.S. 367 (1969); Draper v. Washington, 372 U.S. 487 (1963); Eskridge v. Washington Prison Board, 357 U.S. 214 (1958).

Likewise, in Douglas v. California, 372 U.S. 353 (1963), a decision establishing an indigent defendant's right to court-appointed counsel on direct appeal, the Court dealt only with defendants who could not pay for counsel from their own resources and who had no other way of gaining representation. Douglas provides no relief for those on whom the burdens of paying for a criminal defense are, relatively speaking, great but not insurmountable. Nor does it deal with relative differences in the quality of counsel acquired by the less wealthy.

Williams v. Illinois, 399 U.S. 235 (1970), and Tate v. Short, 401 U.S. 395 (1971), struck down criminal penalties that subjected indigents to incarceration simply because [p.22] of their inability to pay a fine. Again, the disadvantaged class was composed only of persons who were totally unable to pay the demanded sum. Those cases do not touch on the question whether equal protection is denied to persons with relatively less money on whom designated fines impose heavier burdens. The Court has not held that fines must be structured to reflect each person's ability to pay in order to avoid disproportionate burdens. Sentencing judges may, and often do, consider the defendant's ability to pay, but in such circumstances they are guided by sound judicial discretion rather than by constitutional mandate.

Finally, in Bullock v. Carter, 405 U.S. 134 (1972), the Court invalidated the Texas filing-fee requirement for primary elections. Both of the relevant classifying facts found in the previous cases were present there. The size of the fee, often running into the thousands of dollars and, in at least one case, as high as $8,900, effectively barred all potential candidates who were unable to pay the required fee. As the system provided "no reasonable alternative means of access to the ballot" (id., at 149), inability to pay occasioned an absolute denial of a position on the primary ballot.

Only appellees' first possible basis for describing the class disadvantaged by the Texas school-financing system—discrimination against a class of definably "poor" persons—might arguably meet the criteria established in these prior cases. Even a cursory examination, however, demonstrates that neither of the two distinguishing characteristics of wealth classifications can be found here. First, in support of their charge that the system discriminates against the "poor," appellees have made no effort to demonstrate that it operates to the peculiar disadvantage of any class fairly definable as indigent, or as composed of persons whose incomes are beneath any [p. 23] designated poverty level. Indeed, there is reason to believe that the poorest families are not necessarily clustered in the poorest property districts. A recent and exhaustive study of school districts in Connecticut concluded that "[i]t is clearly contend that the 'poor' live in 'poor' districts... Thus, the major factual assumption of Serrano—that the educational financing system discriminates against the 'poor'—is simply false in Connecticut."[52] Defining "poor" families as those below the Bureau of the Census "poverty level,"[53] the Connecticut study found, not surprisingly, that the poor were clustered around commercial and industrial areas—those same areas that provide the most attractive sources of property tax income for school districts[54]. Whether a similar pattern would be discovered in Texas is not known, but there is no basis on the record in this case for assuming that the poorest people—defined by reference to any level of absolute impecunity—are concentrated in the poorest districts.

Second, neither appellees nor the District Court addressed the fact that, unlike each of the foregoing cases, lack of personal resources has not occasioned an absolute deprivation of the desired benefit. The argument here is not that the children in districts having relatively low assessable property values are receiving no public education; rather, it is that they are receiving a poorer quality education than that available to children in districts having more assessable wealth. Apart from the unsettled and disputed question whether the quality of education may be determined by the amount of money [p. 24] expended for it[55], a sufficient answer to appellees' argument is that, at least where wealth is involved, the Equal Protection Clause does not require absolute equality or precisely equal advantages.[56] Nor, indeed, in view of the infinite variables affecting the educational process, can any system assure equal quality of education except in the most relative sense. Texas asserts that the Minimum Foundation Program provides an "adequate" education for all children in the State. By providing 12 years of free public-school education, and by assuring teachers, books, transportation, and operating funds, the Texas Legislature has endeavored to "guarantee, for the welfare of the state as a whole, that all people shall have at least an adequate program of education. This is what is meant by 'A Minimum Foundation Program of Education.'"[57] The State repeatedly asserted in its briefs in this Court that it has fulfilled this desire and that it now assures "every child in every school district an adequate education."[58] No proof was offered at trial persuasively discrediting or refuting the State's assertion.

[p. 25] For these two reasons—the absence of any evidence that the financing system discriminates against any definable category of "poor" people or that it results in the absolute deprivation of education—the disadvantaged class is not susceptible of identification in traditional terms[59].

As suggested above, appellees and the District Court may have embraced a second or third approach, the second of which might be characterized as a theory of relative or comparative discrimination based on family income. Appellees sought to prove that a direct correlation exists between the wealth of families within each district and the expenditures therein for education. That is, along a continuum, the poorer the family the lower the dollar amount of education received by the family's children.

The principal evidence adduced in support of this comparative-discrimination claim is an affidavit submitted by Professor Joel S. Berke of Syracuse University's Educational Finance Policy Institute. The District Court, relying in major part upon this affidavit and apparently accepting the substance of appellees' theory, [p. 26] noted, first, a positive correlation between the wealth of school districts, measured in terms of assessable property per pupil, and their levels of per-pupil expenditures. Second, the court found a similar correlation between district wealth and the personal wealth of its residents, measured in terms of median family income. 337 F.Supp., at 282 n. 3.

If, in fact, these correlations could be sustained, then it might be argued that expenditures on education—equated by appellees to the quality of education—are dependent on personal wealth. Appellees' comparative-discrimination theory would still face serious unanswered questions, including whether a bare positive correlation or some higher degree of correlation[60] is necessary to provide a basis for concluding that the financing system is designed to operate to the peculiar disadvantage of the comparatively poor,[61] and whether a class of this size and diversity could ever claim the special protection accorded "suspect" classes. These questions need not be addressed in this case, however, since appellees' proof fails to support their allegations or the District Court's conclusions.

Professor Berke's affidavit is based on a survey of approximately 10% of the school districts in Texas. His findings, previously set out in the margin[62], show only [p. 27] that the wealthiest few districts in the sample have the highest median family incomes and spend the most on education, and that the several poorest districts have the lowest family incomes and devote the least amount of money to education. For the remainder of the districts—96 districts composing almost 90% of the sample—the correlation is inverted, i.e., the districts that spend next to the most money on education are populated by families having next to the lowest median family incomes while the districts spending the least have the highest median family incomes. It is evident that, even if the conceptual questions were answered favorably to appellees, no factual basis exists upon which to found a claim of comparative wealth discrimination.[63]

This brings us, then, to the third way in which the classification scheme might be defined—district wealth discrimination. Since the only correlation indicated by the evidence is between district property wealth and expenditures, it may be argued that discrimination might be found without regard to the individual income characteristics of district residents. Assuming a perfect correlation between district property wealth and expenditures from top to bottom, the disadvantaged class might be [p. 28] viewed as encompassing every child in every district except the district that has the most assessable wealth and spends the most on education[64]. Alternatively, as suggested in Mr. Justice Marshall's dissenting opinion, post, at 96, the class might be defined more restrictively to include children in districts with assessable property which falls below the statewide average, or median, or below some other artificially defined level.

However described, it is clear that appellees' suit asks this Court to extend its most exacting scrutiny to review a system that allegedly discriminates against a large, diverse, and amorphous class, unified only by the common factor of residence in districts that happen to have less taxable wealth than other districts.[65] The system of alleged discrimination and the class it defines have none of the traditional indicia of suspectness: the class is not saddled with such disabilities, or subjected to such a history of purposeful unequal treatment, or relegated to such a position of political powerlessness as to command extraordinary protection from the majoritarian political process.

We thus conclude that the Texas system does not operate to the peculiar disadvantage of any suspect class. '[p. 29] But in recognition of the fact that this Court has never heretofore held that wealth discrimination alone provides an adequate basis for invoking strict scrutiny, appellees have not relied solely on this contention.[66] They also assert that the State's system impermissibly interferes with the exercise of a "fundamental" right and that accordingly the prior decisions of this Court require the application of the strict standard of judicial review. Graham v. Richardson, 403 U.S. 365, 375-376 (1971); Kramer v. Union School District, 395 U.S. 621 (1969); Shapiro v. Thompson, 394 U.S. 618 (1969). It is this question—whether education is a fundamental right, in the sense that it is among the rights and liberties protected by the Constitution—which has so consumed the attention of courts and commentators in recent years[67].


In Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), a unanimous Court recognized that "education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments." Id., at 493. What was said there in the context of racial discrimination has lost none of its vitality with the passage of time:

"Compulsory school attendance laws and the great expenditures for education both demonstrate our [p. 30] recognition of the importance of education to our democratic society. It is required in the performance of our most basic public responsibilities, even service in the armed forces. It is the very foundation of good citizenship. Today it is a principal instrument in awakening the child to cultural values, in preparing him for later professional training, and in helping him to adjust normally to his environment. In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms." Ibid.

This theme, expressing an abiding respect for the vital role of education in a free society, may be found in numerous opinions of Justices of this Court writing both before and after Brown was decided. Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205, 213 (Burger, C.J.), 237, 238-239 (White, J.), (1972); Abington School Dist. v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203, 230 (1963) (Brennan, J.); McCollum v. Board of Education, 333 U.S. 203, 212 (1948) (Mr. Justice Frankfurter); Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510 (1925); Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390 (1923); Interstate Consolidated Street R. Co. v. Massachusetts, 207 U.S. 79 (1907).

Nothing this Court holds today in any way detracts from our historic dedication to public education. We are in complete agreement with the conclusion of the three-judge panel below that "the grave significance of education both to the individual and to our society" cannot be doubted.[68] But the importance of a service performed by the State does not determine whether it must be regarded as fundamental for purposes of examination under the Equal Protection Clause. Mr. Justice [p. 31] Harlan, dissenting from the Court's application of strict scrutiny to a law impinging upon the right of interstate travel, admonished that "[v]irtually every state statute affects important rights." Shapiro v. Thompson, 394 U.S., at 655, 661. In his view, if the degree of judicial scrutiny of state legislation fluctuated depending on a majority's view of the importance of the interest affected, we would have gone "far toward making this Court a 'super-legislature.'" Ibid. We would, indeed, then be assuming a legislative role and one for which the Court lacks both authority and competence. But Mr. Justice Stewart's response in Shapiro to Mr. Justice Harlan's concern correctly articulates the limits of the fundamental-rights rationale employed in the Court's equal protection decisions:

"The Court today does not 'pick out particular human activities, characterize them as "fundamental," and give them added protection...' To the contrary, the Court simply recognizes, as it must, an established constitutional right, and gives to that right no less protection than the Constitution itself demands." Id., at 642. (Emphasis in original.)

Mr. Justice Stewart's statement serves to underline what the opinion of the Court in Shapiro makes clear. In subjecting to strict judicial scrutiny state welfare eligibility statutes that imposed a one-year durational residency requirement as a precondition to receiving AFDC benefits, the Court explained:

"[I]n moving from State to State...appellees were exercising a constitutional right, and any classification which serves to penalize the exercise of that right, unless shown to be necessary to promote a compelling governmental interest, is unconstitutional." Id., at 634. (Emphasis in original.)

[p. 32] The right to interstate travel had long been recognized as a right of constitutional significance,[69] and the Court's decision, therefore, did not require an ad hoc determination as to the social or economic importance of that right[70].

Lindsey v. Normet, 405 U.S. 56 (1972), decided only last Term, firmly reiterates that social importance is not the critical determinant for subjecting state legislation to strict scrutiny. The complainants in that case, involving a challenge to the procedural limitations imposed on tenants in suits brought by landlords under Oregon's Forcible Entry and Wrongful Detainer Law, urged the Court to examine the operation of the statute under "a more stringent standard than mere rationality." Id., at 73. The tenants argued that the statutory limitations implicated "fundamental interests which are particularly important to the poor," such as the "'need for decent shelter'" and the "'right to retain peaceful possession of one's home.'" Ibid. Mr. Justice White's analysis, in his opinion for the Court, is instructive:

"We do not denigrate the importance of decent, safe, and sanitary housing. But the Constitution does not provide judicial remedies for every social and economic ill. We are unable to perceive in that document any constitutional guarantee of access [p. 33] to dwellings of a particular quality or any recognition of the right of a tenant to occupy the real property of his landlord beyond the term of his lease, without the payment of rent... Absent constitutional mandate, the assurance of adequate housing and the definition of landlord-tenant relationships are legislative, not judicial, functions." Id., at 74. (Emphasis supplied.)

Similarly, in Dandridge v. Williams, 397 U.S. 471 (1970), the Court's explicit recognition of the fact that the "administration of public welfare assistance...involves the most basic economic needs of impoverished human beings," id., at 485,[71] provided no basis for departing from the settled mode of constitutional analysis of legislative classifications involving questions of economic and social policy. As in the case of housing, the central importance of welfare benefits to the poor was not an adequate foundation for requiring the State to justify its law by showing some compelling state interest. See also Jefferson v. Hackney, 406 U.S. 535 (1972); Richardson v. Belcher, 404 U.S. 78 (1971).

The lesson of these cases in addressing the question now before the Court is plain. It is not the province of this Court to create substantive constitutional rights in the name of guaranteeing equal protection of the laws. Thus, the key to discovering whether education is "fundamental" is not to be found in comparisons of the relative societal significance of education as opposed to subsistence or housing. Nor is it to be found by weighing whether education is as important as the right to travel. Rather, the answer lies in assessing whether there is a right to education explicitly or implicitly guaranteed by the Constitution. [p. 34] Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 U.S. 438 (1972)[72]; Dunn v. Blumstein, 405 U.S. 330 (1972)[73]; Police Dept. of Chicago v. Mosley, 408 U.S. 92 (1972)[74]; Skinner v. Oklahoma, 316 U.S. 535 (1942).[75]

[p. 35] Education, of course, is not among the rights afforded explicit protection under our Federal Constitution. Nor do we find any basis for saying it is implicitly so protected. As we have said, the undisputed importance of education will not alone cause this Court to depart from the usual standard for reviewing a State's social and economic legislation. It is appellees' contention, however, that education is distinguishable from other services and benefits provided by the State because it bears a peculiarly close relationship to other rights and liberties accorded protection under the Constitution. Specifically, they insist that education is itself a fundamental personal right because it is essential to the effective exercise of First Amendment freedoms and to intelligent utilization of the right to vote. In asserting a nexus between speech and education, appellees urge that the right to speak is meaningless unless the speaker is capable of articulating his thoughts intelligently and persuasively. The "marketplace of ideas" is an empty forum for those lacking basic communicative tools. Likewise, they argue that the corollary right to receive information[76] becomes little more than a hollow privilege when the recipient has not been taught to read, assimilate, and utilize available knowledge.

A similar line of reasoning is pursued with respect to the right to vote.[77] Exercise of the franchise, it is contended, cannot be divorced from the educational Foundation [p. 36] of the voter. The electoral process, if reality is to conform to the democratic ideal, depends on an informed electorate: a voter cannot cast his ballot intelligently unless his reading skills and thought processes have been adequately developed.

We need not dispute any of these propositions. The Court has long afforded zealous protection against unjustifiable governmental interference with the individual's rights to speak and to vote. Yet we have never presumed to possess either the ability or the authority to guarantee to the citizenry the most effective speech or the most informed electoral choice. That these may be desirable goals of a system of freedom of expression and of a representative form of government is not to be doubted.[78] These are indeed goals to be pursued by a people whose thoughts and beliefs are freed from governmental interference. But they are not values to be implemented by judicial intrusion into otherwise legitimate state activities.

Even if it were conceded that some identifiable quantum of education is a constitutionally protected prerequisite to the meaningful exercise of either right, we have no indication that the present levels of educational expenditure [p. 37] in Texas provide an education that falls short. Whatever merit appellees' argument might have if a State's financing system occasioned an absolute denial of educational opportunities to any of its children, that argument provides no basis for finding an interference with fundamental rights where only relative differences in spending levels are involved and where—as is true in the present case—no charge fairly could be made that the system fails to provide each child with an opportunity to acquire the basic minimal skills necessary for the enjoyment of the rights of speech and of full participation in the political process.

Furthermore, the logical limitations on appellees' nexus theory are difficult to perceive. How, for instance, is education to be distinguished from the significant personal interests in the basics of decent food and shelter? Empirical examination might well buttress an assumption that the ill-fed, ill-clothed, and ill-housed are among the most ineffective participants in the political process, and that they derive the least enjoyment from the benefits of the First Amendment[79]. If so, appellees' thesis would cast serious doubt on the authority of Dandridge v. Williams, supra, and Lindsey v. Normet, supra.

We have carefully considered each of the arguments supportive of the District Court's finding that education is a fundamental right or liberty and have found those arguments unpersuasive. In one further respect we find this a particularly inappropriate case in which to subject state action to strict judicial scrutiny. The present case, in another basic sense, is significantly different from any of the cases in which the Court has [p. 38] applied strict scrutiny to state or federal legislation touching upon constitutionally protected rights. Each of our prior cases involved legislation which "deprived," "infringed," or "interfered" with the free exercise of some such fundamental personal right or liberty. See Skinner v. Oklahoma, supra, at 536; Shapiro v. Thompson, supra, at 634; Dunn v. Blumstein, supra , at 338-343. A critical distinction between those cases and the one now before us lies in what Texas is endeavoring to do with respect to education. Mr. Justice Brennan, writing for the Court in Katzenbach v. Morgan, 384 U.S. 641 (1966), expresses well the salient point[80]:

"This is not a complaint that Congress...has unconstitutionally denied or diluted anyone's right to vote but rather that Congress violated the Constitution by not extending the relief effected [to others similarly situated]...

"[The federal law in question] does not restrict or deny the franchise but in effect extends the franchise to persons who otherwise would be denied it by state law.... We need only decide whether the challenged limitation on the relief effected...was permissible. In deciding that question, the principle that calls for the closest scrutiny of distinctions in laws denying fundamental [p. 39] inapplicable; for the distinction challenged by appellees is presented only as a limitation on a reform measure aimed at eliminating an existing barrier to the exercise of the franchise. Rather, in deciding the constitutional propriety of the limitations in such a reform measure we are guided by the familiar principles that a 'statute is not invalid under the Constitution because it might have gone farther than it did,'...that a legislature need not 'strike at all evils at the same time,'...and that 'reform may take one step at a time, addressing itself to the phase of the problem which seems most acute to the legislative mind ...'" Id., at 656-657. (Emphasis in original.)

The Texas system of school financing is not unlike the federal legislation involved in Katzenbach in this regard. Every step leading to the establishment of the system Texas utilizes today—including the decisions permitting localities to tax and expend locally, and creating and continuously expanding state aid—was implemented in an effort to extend public education and to improve its quality.[81] Of course, every reform that benefits some more than others may be criticized for what it fails to accomplish. But we think it plain that, in substance, the thrust of the Texas system is affirmative and reformatory and, therefore, should be scrutinized under judicial principles sensitive to the nature of the State's efforts and to the rights reserved to the States under the Constitution.[82] [p. 40]


It should be clear, for the reasons stated above and in accord with the prior decisions of this Court, that this is not a case in which the challenged state action must be subjected to the searching judicial scrutiny reserved for laws that create suspect classifications or impinge upon constitutionally protected rights.

We need not rest our decision, however, solely on the inappropriateness of the strict-scrutiny test. A century of Supreme Court adjudication under the Equal Protection Clause affirmatively supports the application of the traditional standard of review, which requires only that the State's system be shown to bear some rational relationship to legitimate state purposes. This case represents far more than a challenge to the manner in which Texas provides for the education of its children. We have here nothing less than a direct attack on the way in which Texas has chosen to raise and disburse state and local tax revenues. We are asked to condemn the State's judgment in conferring on political subdivisions the power to tax local property to supply revenues for local interests. In so doing, appellees would have the Court intrude in an area in which it has traditionally deferred to state legislatures.[83] This Court has often admonished against such interferences with the State's fiscal policies under the Equal Protection Clause:

"The broad discretion as to classification possessed by a legislature in the field of taxation has long been recognized.... [The] passage of time has only served to underscore the wisdom of that recognition of the large area of discretion which is needed by a legislature in formulating sound tax policies. [p. 41] ...It has...been pointed out that in taxation, even more than in other fields, legislatures possess the greatest freedom in classification. Since the members of a legislature necessarily enjoy a familiarity with local conditions which this Court cannot have, the presumption of constitutionality can be overcome only by the most explicit demonstration that a classification is a hostile and oppressive discrimination against particular persons and classes...." Madden v. Kentucky, 309 U.S. 83, 87-88 (1940).

See also Lehnhausen v. Lake Shore Auto Parts Co., 410 U.S. 356 (1973); Wisconsin v. J.C. Penney Co., 311 U.S. 435, 445 (1940).

Thus, we stand on familiar ground when we continue to acknowledge that the Justices of this Court lack both the expertise and the familiarity with local problems so necessary to the making of wise decisions with respect to the raising and disposition of public revenues. Yet, we are urged to direct the States either to alter drastically the present system or to throw out the property tax altogether in favor of some other form of taxation. No scheme of taxation, whether the tax is imposed on property, income, or purchases of goods and services, has yet been devised which is free of all discriminatory impact. In such a complex arena in which no perfect alternatives exist, the Court does well not to impose too rigorous a standard of scrutiny lest all local fiscal schemes become subjects of criticism under the Equal Protection Clause[84].

[p. 42] In addition to matters of fiscal policy, this case also involves the most persistent and difficult questions of educational policy, another area in which this Court's lack of specialized knowledge and experience counsels against premature interference with the informed judgments made at the state and local levels. Education, perhaps even more than welfare assistance, presents a myriad of "intractable economic, social, and even philosophical problems." Dandridge v. Williams, 397 U.S., at 487. The very complexity of the problems of financing and managing a statewide public school system suggests that "there will be more than one constitutionally permissible method of solving them," and that, within the limits of rationality, "the legislature's efforts to tackle the problems" should be entitled to respect. Jefferson v. Hackney, 406 U.S., at 546-547. On even the most basic questions in this area the scholars and educational experts are divided. Indeed, one of the major [p. 43] sources of controversy concerns the extent to which there is a demonstrable correlation between educational expenditures and the quality of education[85]—an assumed correlation underlying virtually every legal conclusion drawn by the District Court in this case. Related to the questioned relationship between cost and quality is the equally unsettled controversy as to the proper goals of a system of public education[86]. And the question regarding the most effective relationship between state boards of education and local school boards, in terms of their respective responsibilities and degrees of control, is now undergoing searching re-examination. The ultimate wisdom as to these and related problems of education is not likely to be divined for all time even by the scholars who now so earnestly debate the issues. In such circumstances, the judiciary is well advised to refrain from imposing on the States inflexible constitutional restraints that could circumscribe or handicap the continued research and experimentation so vital to finding even partial solutions to educational problems and to keeping abreast of ever-changing conditions.

[p. 44] It must be remembered, also, that every claim arising under the Equal Protection Clause has implications for the relationship between national and state power under our federal system. Questions of federalism are always inherent in the process of determining whether a State's laws are to be accorded the traditional presumption of constitutionality, or are to be subjected instead to rigorous judicial scrutiny. While "[t]he maintenance of the principles of federalism is a foremost consideration in interpreting any of the pertinent constitutional provisions under which this Court examines state action,"[87] it would be difficult to imagine a case having a greater potential impact on our federal system than the one now before us, in which we are urged to abrogate systems of financing public education presently in existence in virtually every State.

The foregoing considerations buttress our conclusion that Texas' system of public school finance is an inappropriate candidate for strict judicial scrutiny. These same considerations are relevant to the determination whether that system, with its conceded imperfections, nevertheless bears some rational relationship to a legitimate state purpose. It is to this question that we next turn our attention.


The basic contours of the Texas school finance system have been traced at the outset of this opinion. We will now describe in more detail that system and how it operates, as these facts bear directly upon the demands of the Equal Protection Clause.

Apart from federal assistance, each Texas school receives its funds from the State and from its local school [p. 45] district. On a statewide average, a roughly comparable amount of funds is derived from each source.[88] The State's contribution, under the Minimum Foundation Program, was designed to provide an adequate minimum educational offering in every school in the State. Funds are distributed to assure that there will be one teacher—compensated at the state-supported minimum salary—for every 25 students.[89] Each school district's other supportive personnel are provided for: one principal for every 30 teachers[90]; one "special service" teacher—librarian, nurse, doctor, etc.—for every 20 teachers[91]; superintendents, vocational instructors, counselors, and educators for exceptional children are also provided.[92] Additional funds are earmarked for current operating expenses, for student transportation,[93] and for free textbooks.[94]

The program is administered by the State Board of Education and by the Central Education Agency, which also have responsibility for school accreditation[95] and for monitoring the statutory teacher-qualification standards.[96] As reflected by the 62% increase in funds allotted to the Edgewood School District over the last three years[97], the State's financial contribution to education is steadily increasing. None of Texas' school districts, however, [p. 46] has been content to rely alone on funds from the Foundation Program.

By virtue of the obligation to fulfill its Local Fund Assignment, every district must impose an ad valorem tax on property located within its borders. The Fund Assignment was designed to remain sufficiently low to assure that each district would have some ability to provide a more enriched educational program.[98] Every district supplements its Foundation grant in this manner. In some districts, the local property tax contribution is insubstantial, as in Edgewood where the supplement was only $26 per pupil in 1967. In other districts, the local share may far exceed even the total Foundation grant. In part, local differences are attributable to differences in the rates of taxation or in the degree to which the market value for any category of property varies from its assessed value.[99] The greatest interdistrict disparities, however, are attributable to differences in the amount of assessable property available within any district. Those districts that have more property, or more valuable property, have a greater capability for supplementing state funds. In large measure, these additional local revenues are devoted to paying higher salaries to more teachers. Therefore, the primary distinguishing attributes of schools in property-affluent districts are lower pupil-teacher ratios and higher salary schedules.[100]

[p. 47] This, then, is the basic outline of the Texas school financing structure. Because of differences in expenditure levels occasioned by disparities in property tax income, appellees claim that children in less affluent districts have been made the subject of invidious discrimination. The District Court found that the State had failed even "to establish a reasonable basis" for a system that results in different levels of per-pupil expenditure. 337 F.Supp., at 284. We disagree.

In its reliance on state as well as local resources, the Texas system is comparable to the systems employed [p. 48] in virtually every other State.[101] The power to tax local property for educational purposes has been recognized in Texas at least since 1883[102]. When the growth of commercial and industrial centers and accompanying shifts in population began to create disparities in local resources, Texas undertook a program calling for a considerable investment of state funds.

The "foundation grant" theory upon which Texas legislators and educators based the Gilmer-Aikin bills, was a product of the pioneering work of two New York educational reformers in the 1920's, George D. Strayer and Robert M. Haig.[103] Their efforts were devoted to establishing a means of guaranteeing a minimum statewide educational program without sacrificing the vital element of local participation. The Strayer-Haig thesis [p. 49] represented an accommodation between these two competing forces. As articulated by Professor Coleman:

"The history of education since the industrial revolution shows a continual struggle between two forces: the desire by members of society to have educational opportunity for all children, and the desire of each family to provide the best education it can afford for its own children."[104]

The Texas system of school finance is responsive to these two forces. While assuring a basic education for every child in the State, it permits and encourages a large measure of participation in and control of each district's schools at the local level. In an era that has witnessed a consistent trend toward centralization of the functions of government, local sharing of responsibility for public education has survived. The merit of local control was recognized last Term in both the majority and dissenting opinions in Wright v. Council of the City of Emporia, 407 U.S. 451 (1972). Mr. Justice Stewart stated there that "[d]irect control over decisions vitally affecting the education of one's children is a need that is strongly felt in our society." Id., at 469. The Chief Justice, in his dissent, agreed that "[l]ocal control is not only vital to continued public support of the schools, but it is of overriding importance from an educational standpoint as well." Id., at 478.

The persistence of attachment to government at the lowest level where education is concerned reflects the depth of commitment of its supporters. In part, local control means, as Professor Coleman suggests, the freedom to devote more money to the education of one's children. Equally important, however, is the opportunity [p. 50] it offers for participation in the decision making process that determines how those local tax dollars will be spent. Each locality is free to tailor local programs to local needs. Pluralism also affords some opportunity for experimentation, innovation, and a healthy competition for educational excellence. An analogy to the Nation-State relationship in our federal system seems uniquely appropriate. Mr. Justice Brandeis identified as one of the peculiar strengths of our form of government each State's freedom to "serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments."[105] No area of social concern stands to profit more from a multiplicity of viewpoints and from a diversity of approaches than does public education.

Appellees do not question the propriety of Texas' dedication to local control of education. To the contrary, they attack the school-financing system precisely because, in their view, it does not provide the same level of local control and fiscal flexibility in all districts. Appellees suggest that local control could be preserved and promoted under other financing systems that resulted in more equality in educational expenditures. While it is no doubt true that reliance on local property taxation for school revenues provides less freedom of choice with respect to expenditures for some districts than for others[106], [p. 51] the existence of "some inequality" in the manner in which the State's rationale is achieved is not alone a sufficient basis for striking down the entire system. McGowan v. Maryland, 366 U.S. 420, 425-426 (1961). It may not be condemned simply because it imperfectly effectuates the State's goals. Dandridge v. Williams, 397 U.S., at 485. Nor must the financing system fail because, as appellees suggest, other methods of satisfying the State's interest, which occasion "less drastic" disparities in expenditures, might be conceived. Only where state action impinges on the exercise of fundamental constitutional rights or liberties must it be found to have chosen the least restrictive alternative. Cf. Dunn v. Blumstein, 405 U.S., at 343; Shelton v. Tucker, 364 U.S. 479, 488 (1960). It is also well to remember that even those districts that have reduced ability to make free decisions with respect to how much they spend on education still retain under the present system a large measure of authority as to how available funds will be allocated. They further enjoy the power to make numerous other decisions with respect to the operation of the schools[107]. The people of Texas may be [p. 52] justified in believing that other systems of school financing, which place more of the financial responsibility in the hands of the State, will result in a comparable lessening of desired local autonomy. That is, they may believe [p. 53] that along with increased control of the purse strings at the state level will go increased control over local policies.[108]

Appellees further urge that the Texas system is unconstitutionally arbitrary because it allows the availability of local taxable resources to turn on "happenstance." They see no justification for a system that allows, as they contend, the quality of education to fluctuate on the basis of the fortuitous positioning of the boundary lines of political subdivisions and the location of valuable commercial and industrial property. But any scheme of [p. 54] local taxation—indeed the very existence of identifiable local governmental units—requires the establishment of jurisdictional boundaries that are inevitably arbitrary. It is equally inevitable that some localities are going to be blessed with more taxable assets than others.[109] Nor is local wealth a static quantity. Changes in the level of taxable wealth within any district may result from any number of events, some of which local residents can and do influence. For instance, commercial and industrial enterprises may be encouraged to locate within a district by various actions—public and private.

Moreover, if local taxation for local expenditures were an unconstitutional method of providing for education then it might be an equally impermissible means of providing other necessary services customarily financed largely from local property taxes, including local police and fire protection, public health and hospitals, and public utility facilities of various kinds. We perceive no justification for such a severe denigration of local property taxation and control as would follow from appellees' contentions. It has simply never been within the constitutional prerogative of this Court to nullify statewide measures for financing public services merely because the burdens or benefits thereof fall unevenly depending upon the relative wealth of the political subdivisions in which citizens live.

In sum, to the extent that the Texas system of school financing results in unequal expenditures between children [p. 55] who happen to reside in different districts, we cannot say that such disparities are the product of a system that is so irrational as to be invidiously discriminatory. Texas has acknowledged its shortcomings and has persistently endeavored—not without some success—to ameliorate the differences in levels of expenditures without sacrificing the benefits of local participation. The Texas plan is not the result of hurried, ill-conceived legislation. It certainly is not the product of purposeful discrimination against any group or class. On the contrary, it is rooted in decades of experience in Texas and elsewhere, and in major part is the product of responsible studies by qualified people. In giving substance to the presumption of validity to which the Texas system is entitled, Lindsley v. Natural Carbonic Gas Co., 220 U.S. 61, 78 (1911), it is important to remember that at every stage of its development it has constituted a "rough accommodation" of interests in an effort to arrive at practical and workable solutions. Metropolis Theatre Co. v. City of Chicago, 228 U.S. 61, 69-70 (1913). One also must remember that the system here challenged is not peculiar to Texas or to any other State. In its essential characteristics, the Texas plan for financing public education reflects what many educators for a half century have thought was an enlightened approach to a problem for which there is no perfect solution. We are unwilling to assume for ourselves a level of wisdom superior to that of legislators, scholars, and educational authorities in 50 States, especially where the alternatives proposed are only recently conceived and nowhere yet tested. The constitutional standard under the Equal Protection Clause is whether the challenged state action rationally furthers a legitimate state purpose or interest. McGinnis v. Royster, 410 U.S. 263, 270 (1973). We hold that the Texas plan abundantly satisfies this standard. [p. 56]


In light of the considerable attention that has focused on the District Court opinion in this case and on its California predecessor, Serrano v. Priest, 5 Cal. 3d 584, 487 P.2d 1241 (1971), a cautionary postscript seems appropriate. It cannot be questioned that the constitutional judgment reached by the District Court and approved by our dissenting Brothers today would occasion in Texas and elsewhere an unprecedented upheaval in public education. Some commentators have concluded that, whatever the contours of the alternative financing programs that might be devised and approved, the result could not avoid being a beneficial one. But, just as there is nothing simple about the constitutional issues involved in these cases, there is nothing simple or certain about predicting the consequences of massive change in the financing and control of public education. Those who have devoted the most thoughtful attention to the practical ramifications of these cases have found no clear or dependable answers and their scholarship reflects no such unqualified confidence in the desirability of completely uprooting the existing system.

The complexity of these problems is demonstrated by the lack of consensus with respect to whether it may be said with any assurance that the poor, the racial minorities, or the children in overburdened core-city school districts would be benefited by abrogation of traditional modes of financing education. Unless there is to be a substantial increase in state expenditures on education across the board—an event the likelihood of which is open to considerable question[110]—these groups stand to [p. 57] realize gains in terms of increased per-pupil expenditures only if they reside in districts that presently spend at relatively low levels, i.e., in those districts that would benefit from the redistribution of existing resources. Yet, recent studies have indicated that the poorest families are not invariably clustered in the most impecunious school districts[111]. Nor does it now appear that there is any more than a random chance that racial minorities are concentrated in property-poor districts[112]. Additionally, [p. 58] several research projects have concluded that any financing alternative designed to achieve a greater equality of expenditures is likely to lead to higher taxation and lower educational expenditures in the major urban centers[113], a result that would exacerbate rather than ameliorate existing conditions in those areas.

These practical considerations, of course, play no role in the adjudication of the constitutional issues presented here. But they serve to highlight the wisdom of the traditional limitations on this Court's function. The consideration and initiation of fundamental reforms with respect to state taxation and education are matters reserved for the legislative processes of the various States, and we do no violence to the values of federalism and separation of powers by staying our hand. We hardly need add that this Court's action today is not to be viewed as placing its judicial imprimatur on the status quo. The need is apparent for reform in tax systems which may well have relied too long and too heavily on the local property tax. And certainly innovative thinking as to public education, its methods, and its funding is necessary to assure both a higher level of quality and greater uniformity of opportunity. These matters merit the continued attention of the scholars who already [p. 59] have contributed much by their challenges. But the ultimate solutions must come from the lawmakers and from the democratic pressures of those who elect them.



  1. . Not all of the children of these complainants attend public school. One family's children are enrolled in private school "because of the condition of the schools in the Edgewood Independent School District." Third Amended Complaint, App. 14.
  2. . The San Antonio Independent School District, whose name this case still bears, was one of seven school districts in the San Antonio metropolitan area that were originally named as defendants. After a pretrial conference, the District Court issued an order dismissing the school districts from the case. Subsequently, the San Antonio Independent School District joined in the plaintiffs' challenge to the State's school finance system and filed an amicus curiae brief in support of that position in this Court.
  3. . A three-judge court was properly convened and there are no questions as to the District Court's jurisdiction or the direct appealability of its judgment. 28 U.S.C.§§1253, 2281.
  4. . The trial was delayed for two years to permit extensive pretrial discovery and to allow completion of a pending Texas legislative investigation concerning the need for reform of its public school finance system. 337 F.Supp. 280, 285 n. 11 (WD Tex. 1971).
  5. . 337 F. Supp. 280. The District Court stayed its mandate for two years to provide Texas an opportunity to remedy the inequities found in its financing program. The court, however, retained jurisdiction to fashion its own remedial order if the State failed to offer an acceptable plan. Id., at 286.
  6. . Tex. Const., Art. X, §1 (1845):
  7. . Tex. Const. of 1876, Art. 7, §3, as amended, Aug. 14, 1883.
  8. . Id., Art. 7, §§3, 4, 5.
  9. . 3 Gammel's Laws of Texas 1847-1854, p. 1461. See Tex. Const., Art. 7, §§1, 2, 5 (interpretive commentaries); 1 Report of Governor's Committee on Public School Education, The Challenge and the Chance 27 (1969) (hereinafter Governor's Committee Report).
  10. . Tex. Const., Art. 7, §5 (see also the interpretive commentary); 5 Governor's Committee Report 11-12.
  11. . The various sources of revenue for the Available School Fund are cataloged in A Report of the Adequacy of Texas Schools, prepared by Texas State Board of Education, 7-15 (1938) (hereinafter Texas State Bd. of Educ.).
  12. . Tex. Const., Art. 7, §3, as amended, Nov. 5, 1918 (see interpretive commentary).
  13. . 1 Governor's Committee Report 35; Texas State Bd. of Educ., supra, n. 11, at 5-7; J. Coons, W. Clune, & S. Sugarman, Private Wealth and Public Education 48-49 (1970); E. Cubberley, School Funds and Their Apportionment 21-27 (1905).
  14. . By 1940, one-half of the State's population was clustered in its metropolitan centers. 1 Governor's Committee Report 35.
  15. . Gilmer-Aikin Committee, To Have What We Must 13 (1948).
  16. . R. Still, The Gilmer-Aikin Bills 11-13 (1950); Texas State Bd. of Educ., supra, n. 11.
  17. . Still, supra, n. 16, at 12. It should be noted that during this period the median per-pupil expenditure for all schools with an enrollment of more than 200 was approximately $50 per year. During this same period, a survey conducted by the State Board of Education concluded that "in Texas the best educational advantages offered by the State at present may be had for the median cost of $52.67 per year per pupil in average daily attendance." Texas State Bd. of Educ., supra, n. 11, at 56.
  18. . General Laws of Texas, 46th Legis., Reg. Sess. 1939, c. 7, pp. 274-275 ($22.50 per student); General & Spec. Laws of Texas, 48th Legis., Reg. Sess. 1943, c. 161, pp. 262-263 ($25 per student).
  19. . General & Spec. Laws of Texas, 49th Legis., Reg. Sess. 1945, c. 52, pp. 74-75; Still, supra, n. 16, at 12.
  20. . For a complete history of the adoption in Texas of a foundation program, see Still, supra, n. 16. See also 5 Governor's Committee Report 14; Texas Research League, Public School Finance Problems in Texas 9 (Interim Report 1972).
  21. . For the 1970-1971 school year this state aid program accounted for 48% of all public school funds. Local taxation contributed 41.1% and 10.9% was provided in federal funds. Texas Research League, supra, n. 20, at 9.
  22. . 5 Governor's Committee Report 44-48.
  23. . At present, there are 1,161 school districts in Texas. Texas Research League, supra, n. 20, at 12.
  24. . In 1948, the Gilmer-Aikin Committee found that some school districts were not levying any local tax to support education. Gilmer-Aikin Committee, supra, n. 15, at 16. The Texas State Board of Education Survey found that over 400 common and independent school districts were levying no local property tax in 1935-1936. Texas State Bd. of Educ., supra n. 11, at 39-42.
  25. . Gilmer-Aikin Committee, supra, n. 15, at 15.
  26. . 1 Governor's Committee Report 51-53.
  27. . Texas Research League, supra, n. 20, at 2.
  28. . In the years between 1949 and 1967, the average per-pupil expenditure for all current operating expenses increased from $206 to $493. In that same period, capital expenditures increased from $44 to $102 per pupil. 1 Governor's Committee Report 53-54.
  29. . Acts 1949, 51st Legis., p. 625, c. 334, Art. 4, Tex. Educ. Code Ann. §16.302 (1972); see generally 3 Governor's Committee Report 113-146; Berke, Carnevale, Morgan & White, The Texas School Finance Case: A Wrong in Search of a Remedy, 1 J. of L. & Educ. 659, 681-682 (1972).
  30. . The family income figures are based on 1960 census statistics.
  31. . The Available School Fund, technically, provides a second source of state money. That Fund has continued as in years past (see text accompanying nn. 16-19, supra) to distribute uniform per-pupil grants to every district in the State. In 1968, this Fund allotted $98 per pupil. However, because the Available School Fund contribution is always subtracted from a district's entitlement under the Foundation Program, it plays no significant role in educational finance today.
  32. . While federal assistance has an ameliorating effect on the difference in school budgets between wealthy and poor districts, the District Court rejected an argument made by the State in that court that it should consider the effect of the federal grant in assessing the discrimination claim. 337 F.Supp., at 284. The State has not renewed that contention here.
  33. . A map of Bexar County included in the record shows that Edgewood and Alamo Heights are among the smallest districts in the county and are of approximately equal size. Yet, as the figures above indicate, Edgewood's student population is more than four times that of Alamo Heights. This factor obviously accounts for a significant percentage of the differences between the two districts in per-pupil property values and expenditures. If Alamo Heights had as many students to educate as Edgewood does (22,000) its per pupil assessed property value would be approximately $11,100 rather than $49,000, and its per-pupil expenditures would therefore have been considerably lower.
  34. . The figures quoted above vary slightly from those utilized in the District Court opinion. 337 F. Supp., at 282. These trivial differences are apparently a product of that court's reliance on slightly different statistical data than we have relied upon.
  35. . Although the Foundation Program has made significantly greater contributions to both school districts over the last several years, it is apparent that Alamo Heights has enjoyed a larger gain. The sizable difference between the Alamo Heights and Edgewood grants is due to the emphasis in the State's allocation formula on the guaranteed minimum salaries for teachers. Higher salaries are guaranteed to teachers having more years of experience and possessing more advanced degrees. Therefore, Alamo Heights, which has a greater percentage of experienced personnel with advanced degrees, receives more State support. In this regard, the Texas Program is not unlike that presently in existence in a number of other States. Coons, Clune & Sugarman, supra, n. 13, at 63-125. Because more dollars have been given to districts that already spend more per pupil, such Foundation formulas have been described as "anti-equalizing." Ibid. The formula, however, is anti-equalizing only if viewed in absolute terms. The percentage disparity between the two Texas districts is diminished substantially by state aid. Alamo Heights derived in 1967-1968 almost 13 times as much money from local taxes as Edgewood did. The state aid grants to each district in 1970-1971 lowered the ratio to approximately two to one, i.e., Alamo Heights had a little more than twice as much money to spend per pupil from its combined state and local resources.
  36. . Texas Research League, supra, n. 20, at 13.
  37. . The Economic Index, which determines each county's share of the total Local Fund Assignment, is based on a complex formula conceived in 1949 when the Foundation Program was instituted. See text, supra, at 9-10. It has frequently been suggested by Texas researchers that the formula be altered in several respects to provide a more accurate reflection of local taxpaying ability, especially of urban school districts. 5 Governor's Committee Report 48; Texas Research League, Texas Public School Finance: A Majority of Exceptions 31-32 (2d Interim Report 1972); Berke, Carnevale, Morgan & White, supra, n. 29, at 680-681.
  38. . The District Court relied on the findings presented in an affidavit submitted by Professor Berke of Syracuse. His sampling of 110 Texas school districts demonstrated a direct correlation between the amount of a district's taxable property and its level of per-pupil expenditure. But his study found only a partial correlation between a district's median family income and per-pupil expenditures. The study also shows, in the relatively few districts at the extremes, an inverse correlation between percentage of minorities and expenditures.
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  54. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref55
  55. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref56
  56. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref57
  57. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref58
  58. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref59
  59. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref60
  60. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref61
  61. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref62
  62. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref63
  63. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref64
  64. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref65
  65. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref66
  66. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref67
  67. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref68
  68. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref69
  69. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref70
  70. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref71
  71. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref72
  72. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref73
  73. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref74
  74. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref75
  75. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref76
  76. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref77
  77. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref78
  78. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref79
  79. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref80
  80. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref81
  81. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref82
  82. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref83
  83. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref84
  84. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref85
  85. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref86
  86. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref87
  87. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref88
  88. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref89
  89. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref90
  90. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref91
  91. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref92
  92. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref93
  93. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref94
  94. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref95
  95. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref96
  96. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref97
  97. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref98
  98. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref99
  99. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref100
  100. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref101
  101. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref102
  102. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref103
  103. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref104
  104. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref105
  105. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref106
  106. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref107
  107. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref108
  108. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref109
  109. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref110
  110. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref111
  111. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref112
  112. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref113
  113. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ref114