Supreme court weary of overseeing "minimal" education

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On Wednesday, S.C. Supreme Court Justices showed reluctance to determine a "minimally adequate" amount of funding for schools in poor counties.

A 15-years-in-the-making legal battle challenges that the state legislature needs to give more resources to poor, low achieving school districts to ensure that a "minimally adequate" education can be offered. A "minimally adequate" level is mandated in the S.C. Constitution.

But justices argued that they cannot be put in charge of such direct matters, such as funding. The Post and Courier reports:
"You're asking us to give a blueprint of what they need to do," said Chief Justice Jean Toal. She said the General Assembly and the Governor's Office drive education standards and funding. "What is it about the (state) constitution that would require us to mandate that the General Assembly create specialized programs for poor children?" Toal said. "I understand that argument in my heart, but what I'm struggling with is what the proper role of a court is."

But the school districts argued that the poorer the county, the more that must be done to give the minimum standard. The State talks about some of these points:
Hart, one of three attorneys who fought to get districts with high rates of poverty more money for teacher pay, smaller classes and new buildings, repeatedly described students as among the state’s most isolated and disadvantaged by circumstances they cannot control.

“South Carolina’s poorest children don’t receive a constitutional opportunity to be educated” the way the education clause of the state Constitution says they should, Hart said. Her clients, she said, “deserve a chance in life to be productive citizens.”

The court has heard the issue but does not have a deadline by when (if ever) they must offer a ruling. The Post and Courier offers a past timeline of the issue.

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