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Sidley Austin Represents Plaintiffs in Another School Funding Challenge

Posted Mar 24, 2010 12:32 PM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Lawyers for plaintiffs challenging the local funding system for Illinois schools say a 1996 state supreme court ruling doesn’t bar their suit because of new mandates for education.

The 1996 Illinois Supreme Court decision said school funding disparities were related to the legitimate state goal of promoting local control of education, according to a press release. Since then, the Illinois legislature has enacted statewide learning standards and penalties for schools that don’t measure up.

"Local control is nowhere near as local as it used to be," lawyer Alex Polikoff told the Chicago Tribune. Polikoff, who represents the plaintiffs along with the Sidley Austin law firm, is a staff lawyer for Business and Professional People for the Public Interest. Sidley’s lead counsel in the suit is Scott Lassar, a former federal prosecutor.

The suit (PDF) claims that homeowners in poor neighborhoods have to pay higher tax rates to fund education than those in more affluent communities, violating the equal protection clause of the Illinois Constitution. The state picks up less than 30 percent of the cost of education in Illinois.

Another pending lawsuit filed in 2008 claims funding differences violate the civil rights of minority students.

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