Yesterday, the Oklahoma Supreme Court denied a remedy for Oklahoma’s school children to receive an adequate and equitable education. In holding that it did not have the authority to decide school funding issues, the Court dismissed the Petition that had been filed by the Oklahoma Education Association (OEA) and three school districts, which sought a declaratory judgment that the Oklahoma Legislature has failed to adequately fund Oklahoma’s system of public education.
We are disappointed in this decision and disappointed that the Court did not address the issue of whether the current system of funding provides Oklahoma’s school children with the “basic, adequate education” that the Court had referenced in a prior school finance decision.
We are also disappointed that the Court in its opinion appears to give the Oklahoma Legislature unfettered discretion in determining whether the Legislature is meeting its constitutional mandate to provide an adequate education to Oklahoma’s school children. In fact, the Court agrees in its opinion that the Oklahoma Legislature is free to ignore legislatively enacted goals for the improvement of public education.
Unlike the Courts of most other states that have recently considered school funding challenges, the Oklahoma Supreme Court has clearly and unequivocally stated that it does not have the authority to force the Oklahoma Legislature to comply with the Oklahoma Constitution.
While it is no secret that Oklahoma’s system of public education is under-funded, the Court has indicated that it will not exercise its judicial authority and assist in providing a remedy. As we have for the 118 years that we have been in existence, the OEA will continue our efforts to ensure that every child in Oklahoma receives a quality public education and that Oklahoma’s schools are adequately funded by the Oklahoma Legislature.