AUSTIN, Texas – School districts and their supporters around the US have launched a wave of lawsuits asking courts to order more spending on public education, contending they face new pressures as states cut billions of dollars of funding while adding more rigorous educational standards.
About half of the school districts in Texas have sued the state since the legislature cut more than $5 billion from school budgets last year, citing fiscal pressures.
School-funding suits also are pending in California, Florida and Kansas, among other states. The suits generally claim schools lack the resources to provide the level of education required by state constitutions.
Critics of such lawsuits -- and states being sued -- say it is the prerogative of legislatures to decide how much states should spend on education.
In Washington state, the Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the state legislature to come up with a plan for additional funding.
Gov. Christine Gregoire, a Democrat, said in a statement she agreed with the ruling, noting that without ample funds it is "difficult for students to gain the skills and knowledge needed to compete in today's global economy."
School-funding disputes have turned up in courthouses for decades, but experts say the pace of litigation has increased because of state and local governments' fiscal woes.
Schools in poorer districts claim they are particularly hurt by recent budget cuts because they generate relatively modest property-tax revenue and thus rely more heavily on state educational funding.