This suit attacking the Texas system of financing public education was initiated by Mexican-American parents whose children attend the elementary and secondary
The first Texas State Constitution, promulgated upon Texas' entry into the Union in 1845, provided for the establishment of a system of free schools.
Until recent times, Texas was a predominantly rural State and its population and property wealth were spread
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.
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.
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
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
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%.
The school district in which appellees reside, the Edge-wood 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
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
Although the 1967-1968 school year figures provide the only complete statistical breakdown for each category of aid,
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
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,
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,
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,"
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,
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
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
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
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,
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
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,
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
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.
We thus conclude that the Texas system does not operate to the peculiar disadvantage of any suspect class.
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:
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) (Frankfurter, J.); 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.
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:
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:
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,
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.
A similar line of reasoning is pursued with respect to the right to vote.
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.
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 expenditures
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
The program is administered by the State Board of Education and by the Central Education Agency, which also have responsibility for school accreditation
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.
In its reliance on state as well as local resources, the Texas system is comparable to the systems employed
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.
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
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,
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
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
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
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
MR. JUSTICE STEWART, concurring.
The method of financing public schools in Texas, as in almost every other State, has resulted in a system of public education that can fairly be described as chaotic and unjust.
Unlike other provisions of the Constitution, the Equal Protection Clause confers no substantive rights and creates no substantive liberties.
This doctrine is no more than a specific application of one of the first principles of constitutional adjudication— the basic presumption of the constitutional validity of a duly enacted state or federal law. See Thayer, The Origin and Scope of the American Doctrine of Constitutional Law, 7 Harv. L. Rev. 129 (1893).
Moreover, quite apart from the Equal Protection Clause, a state law that impinges upon a substantive right or liberty created or conferred by the Constitution is, of course, presumptively invalid, whether or not the law's purpose or effect is to create any classifications. For example, a law that provided that newspapers could be published only by people who had resided in the State for five years could be superficially viewed as invidiously discriminating against an identifiable class in violation of the Equal Protection Clause. But, more basically, such a law would be invalid simply because it abridged the freedom of the press. Numerous cases in this Court illustrate this principle.
MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN, dissenting.
Although I agree with my Brother WHITE that the Texas statutory scheme is devoid of any rational basis, and for that reason is violative of the Equal Protection Clause, I also record my disagreement with the Court's rather distressing assertion that a right may be deemed "fundamental" for the purposes of equal protection analysis only if it is "explicitly or implicitly guaranteed by the Constitution." Ante, at 33-34. As my Brother MARSHALL convincingly demonstrates, our prior cases stand for the proposition that "fundamentality" is, in large measure, a function of the right's importance in terms of the effectuation of those rights which are in fact constitutionally guaranteed. Thus, "[a]s the nexus between the specific constitutional guarantee and the non-constitutional
Here, there can be no doubt that education is inextricably linked to the right to participate in the electoral process and to the rights of free speech and association guaranteed by the First Amendment. See post, at 111-115. This being so, any classification affecting education must be subjected to strict judicial scrutiny, and since even the State concedes that the statutory scheme now before us cannot pass constitutional muster under this stricter standard of review, I can only conclude that the Texas school-financing scheme is constitutionally invalid.
MR. JUSTICE WHITE, with whom MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS and MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN join, dissenting.
The Texas public schools are financed through a combination of state funding, local property tax revenue, and some federal funds.
I cannot disagree with the proposition that local control and local decisionmaking play an important part in our democratic system of government. Cf. James v. Valtierra, 402 U.S. 137 (1971). Much may be left to local option, and this case would be quite different if it were true that the Texas system, while insuring minimum educational expenditures in every district through state funding, extended a meaningful option to all local districts to increase their per-pupil expenditures and so to improve their children's education to the extent that increased funding would achieve that goal. The system would then arguably provide a rational and sensible method of achieving the stated aim of preserving an area for local initiative and decision.
The difficulty with the Texas system, however, is that it provides a meaningful option to Alamo Heights and like school districts but almost none to Edgewood and those other districts with a low per-pupil real estate tax base. In these latter districts, no matter how desirous parents are of supporting their schools with greater revenues, it is impossible to do so through the use of the
Local school districts in Texas raise their portion of the Foundation School Program—the Local Fund Assignment —by levying ad valorem taxes on the property located within their boundaries. In addition, the districts are authorized, by the state constitution and by statute, to levy ad valorem property taxes in order to raise revenues to support educational spending over and above the expenditure of Foundation School Program funds.
Both the Edgewood and Alamo Heights districts are located in Bexar County, Texas. Student enrollment in Alamo Heights is 5,432, in Edgewood 22,862. The per-pupil market value of the taxable property in Alamo Heights is $49,078, in Edgewood $5,960. In a typical, relevant year, Alamo Heights had a maintenance tax rate of $1.20 and a debt service (bond) tax rate of 20¢ per $100 assessed evaluation, while Edgewood had a maintenance rate of 52¢ and a bond rate of 67¢. These rates, when applied to the respective tax bases, yielded Alamo Heights $1,433,473 in maintenance dollars and $236,074 in bond dollars, and Edgewood $223,034 in maintenance dollars and $279,023 in bond dollars. As is readily apparent, because of the variance in tax bases between the districts, results, in terms of revenues, do not correlate with effort, in terms of tax rate. Thus, Alamo Heights, with a tax base approximately twice the size of Edgewood's base, realized approximately six times as many maintenance dollars as Edgewood by using a tax rate only approximately two and one-half times larger. Similarly, Alamo Heights realized slightly fewer bond
Nor is Edgewood's revenue-raising potential only deficient when compared with Alamo Heights. North East District has taxable property with a per-pupil market value of approximately $31,000, but total taxable property approximately four and one-half times that of Edgewood. Applying a maintenance rate of $1, North East yielded $2,818,148. Thus, because of its superior tax base, North East was able to apply a tax rate slightly less than twice that applied by Edgewood and yield more than 10 times the maintenance dollars. Similarly, North East, with a bond rate of 45¢, yielded $1,249,159—more than four times Edgewood's yield with two-thirds the rate.
Plainly, were Alamo Heights or North East to apply the Edgewood tax rate to its tax base, it would yield far greater revenues than Edgewood is able to yield applying those same rates to its base. Conversely, were Edgewood to apply the Alamo Heights or North East rates to its base, the yield would be far smaller than the Alamo Heights or North East yields. The disparity is, therefore, currently operative and its impact on Edgewood is undeniably serious. It is evident from statistics in the record that show that, applying an equalized tax rate of 85¢ per $100 assessed valuation, Alamo Heights was able to provide approximately $330 per pupil in local revenues over and above the Local Fund Assignment. In Edgewood, on the other hand, with an equalized tax rate of $1.05 per $100 of assessed valuation, $26 per pupil was raised beyond the Local Fund Assignment.
In order to equal the highest yield in any other Bexar County district, Alamo Heights would be required to tax at the rate of 68¢ per $100 of assessed valuation. Edgewood would be required to tax at the prohibitive rate of $5.76 per $100. But state law places a $1.50 per $100 ceiling on the maintenance tax rate, a limit that would surely be reached long before Edgewood attained an equal yield. Edgewood is thus precluded in law, as well as in fact, from achieving a yield even close to that of some other districts.
The Equal Protection Clause permits discriminations between classes but requires that the classification bear some rational relationship to a permissible object sought to be attained by the statute. It is not enough that the Texas system before us seeks to achieve the valid, rational purpose of maximizing local initiative; the means chosen by the State must also be rationally related to the end sought to be achieved. As the Court stated just last Term in Weber v. Aetna Casualty & Surety Co., 406 U.S. 164, 172 (1972):
This does not, of course, mean that local control may not be a legitimate goal of a school-financing system. Nor does it mean that the State must guarantee each district an equal per-pupil revenue from the state school-financing system. Nor does it mean, as the majority appears to believe, that, by affirming the decision below,
Perhaps the majority believes that the major disparity in revenues provided and permitted by the Texas system is inconsequential. I cannot agree, however, that the difference of the magnitude appearing in this case can sensibly be ignored, particularly since the State itself considers it so important to provide opportunities to exceed the minimum state educational expenditures.
There is no difficulty in identifying the class that is subject to the alleged discrimination and that is entitled to the benefits of the Equal Protection Clause. I need go no farther than the parents and children in the Edgewood district, who are plaintiffs here and who assert that they are entitled to the same choice as Alamo Heights to augment local expenditures for schools but are denied that choice by state law. This group constitutes a class sufficiently definite to invoke the protection of the Constitution. They are as entitled to the protection of the Equal Protection Clause as were the voters in allegedly under represented counties in the reapportionment cases. See, e. g., Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 204-208 (1962); Gray v. Sanders, 372 U.S. 368, 375 (1963); Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533, 554-556 (1964). And in Bullock v. Carter, 405 U.S. 134 (1972), where a challenge to the
MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL, with whom MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS concurs, dissenting.
The Court today decides, in effect, that a State may constitutionally vary the quality of education which it offers its children in accordance with the amount of taxable wealth located in the school districts within which they reside. The majority's decision represents an abrupt departure from the mainstream of recent state and federal court decisions concerning the unconstitutionality of state educational financing schemes dependent upon taxable local wealth.
In my judgment, the right of every American to an equal start in life, so far as the provision of a state service as important as education is concerned, is far too vital to permit state discrimination on grounds as tenuous as those presented by this record. Nor can I accept the notion that it is sufficient to remit these appellees to the vagaries of the political process which, contrary to the majority's suggestion, has proved singularly unsuited to the task of providing a remedy for this discrimination.
The Court acknowledges that "substantial interdistrict disparities in school expenditures" exist in Texas, ante, at 15, and that these disparities are "largely attributable to differences in the amounts of money collected through local property taxation," ante, at 16. But instead of closely examining the seriousness of these disparities and the invidiousness of the Texas financing scheme, the Court undertakes an elaborate exploration of the efforts Texas has purportedly made to close the gaps between its districts in terms of levels of district wealth and resulting educational funding. Yet, however praiseworthy Texas' equalizing efforts, the issue in this case is not whether Texas is doing its best to ameliorate the worst features of a discriminatory scheme but, rather, whether the scheme itself is in fact unconstitutionally discriminatory in the face of the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee of equal protection of the laws. When the Texas financing scheme is taken as a whole, I do not think it can be doubted that it produces a discriminatory impact on substantial numbers of the schoolage children of the State of Texas.
Funds to support public education in Texas are derived from three sources: local ad valorem property taxes; the Federal Government; and the state government.
The significance of the local property tax element of the Texas financing scheme is apparent from the fact that it provides the funds to meet some 40% of the cost of public education for Texas as a whole.
The seriously disparate consequences of the Texas local property tax, when that tax is considered alone, are amply illustrated by data presented to the District Court by appellees. These data included a detailed study of a sample of 110 Texas school districts
It is clear, moreover, that the disparity of per-pupil revenues cannot be dismissed as the result of lack of local effort—that is, lower tax rates—by property-poor districts. To the contrary, the data presented below indicate that the poorest districts tend to have the highest tax rates and the richest districts tend to have the lowest tax rates.
Nor are these funding variations corrected by the other aspects of the Texas financing scheme. The Federal Government provides funds sufficient to cover only some 10% of the total cost of public education in Texas.
State funds provide the remaining some 50% of the monies spent on public education in Texas.
The Minimum Foundation School Program provides funds for three specific purposes: professional salaries, current operating expenses, and transportation expenses.
The stated purpose of the Minimum Foundation School Program is to provide certain basic funding for each local Texas school district.
Moreover, even putting aside these criticisms of the economic index as a device for achieving meaningful district wealth equalization through cost allocation, poor districts still do not necessarily receive more state aid than property-rich districts. For the standards which currently determine the amount received from the Foundation School Program by any particular district
Despite these facts, the majority continually emphasizes how much state aid has, in recent years, been given
The appellants do not deny the disparities in educational funding caused by variations in taxable district property wealth. They do contend, however, that whatever the differences in per-pupil spending among Texas districts, there are no discriminatory consequences for the children of the disadvantaged districts. They recognize that what is at stake in this case is the quality of the
In my view, though, even an unadorned restatement of this contention is sufficient to reveal its absurdity. Authorities concerned with educational quality no doubt disagree as to the significance of variations in per-pupil spending.
Hence, even before this Court recognized its duty to tear down the barriers of state-enforced racial segregation in public education, it acknowledged that inequality in the educational facilities provided to students may be discriminatory state action as contemplated by the Equal Protection Clause. As a basis for striking down state-enforced segregation of a law school, the Court in Sweatt v. Painter, 339 U.S. 629, 633-634 (1950), stated:
The consequences, in terms of objective educational input, of the variations in district funding caused by the Texas financing scheme are apparent from the data introduced before the District Court. For example, in 1968-1969, 100% of the teachers in the property-rich Alamo Heights School District had college degrees.
At the very least, in view of the substantial interdistrict disparities in funding and in resulting educational inputs shown by appellees to exist under the Texas financing scheme, the burden of proving that these disparities do not in fact affect the quality of children's education must fall upon the appellants. Cf. Hobson v. Hansen, 327 F.Supp. 844, 860-861 (DC 1971). Yet appellants made no effort in the District Court to demonstrate that educational quality is not affected by variations in funding and in resulting inputs. And, in this Court, they have argued no more than that the relationship is ambiguous. This is hardly sufficient to overcome appellees' prima facie showing of state-created discrimination between the schoolchildren of Texas with respect to objective educational opportunity.
Nor can I accept the appellants' apparent suggestion that the Texas Minimum Foundation School Program effectively eradicates any discriminatory effects otherwise resulting from the local property tax element of the
The suggestion may be that the state aid received via the Foundation Program sufficiently improves the position of property-poor districts vis-à-vis property-rich districts —in terms of educational funds—to eliminate any claim of interdistrict discrimination in available educational resources which might otherwise exist if educational funding were dependent solely upon local property taxation. Certainly the Court has recognized that to demand precise equality of treatment is normally unrealistic, and thus minor differences inherent in any practical context usually will not make out a substantial equal protection claim. See, e. g., Mayer v. City of Chicago, 404 U.S. 189, 194-195 (1971); Draper v. Washington, 372 U.S. 487, 495-496 (1963); Bain Peanut Co. v. Pinson, 282 U.S. 499, 501 (1931). But, as has already been seen, we are hardly presented here with some de minimis claim of discrimination resulting from the play necessary in any functioning system; to the contrary, it is clear that the Foundation Program utterly fails to
Alternatively, the appellants and the majority may believe that the Equal Protection Clause cannot be offended by substantially unequal state treatment of persons who are similarly situated so long as the State provides everyone with some unspecified amount of education which evidently is "enough."
See also Douglas v. California, 372 U.S. 353, 357 (1963); Goesaert v. Cleary, 335 U.S. 464, 466 (1948).
Even if the Equal Protection Clause encompassed some theory of constitutional adequacy, discrimination in the provision of educational opportunity would certainly seem to be a poor candidate for its application. Neither the majority nor appellants inform us how judicially manageable standards are to be derived for determining how much education is "enough" to excuse constitutional discrimination. One would think that the majority would heed its own fervent affirmation of judicial self-restraint before undertaking the complex task of determining at large what level of education is constitutionally sufficient. Indeed, the majority's apparent reliance upon the adequacy of the educational opportunity assured by the Texas Minimum Foundation School Program seems fundamentally inconsistent with its own recognition that educational authorities are unable to agree upon what makes for educational quality, see ante, at 42-43 and n. 86 and at 47 n. 101. If, as the majority stresses, such authorities are uncertain as to the impact of various levels of funding on educational quality, I fail to see where it finds the expertise to divine that the particular levels of funding provided by the Program assure an adequate educational opportunity—much less an education substantially equivalent in quality to that which a higher level of funding might provide. Certainly appellants' mere assertion before this Court of the adequacy of the education guaranteed by the Minimum
In my view, then, it is inequality—not some notion of gross inadequacy—of educational opportunity that raises a question of denial of equal protection of the laws. I find any other approach to the issue unintelligible and without directing principle. Here, appellees have made a substantial showing of wide variations in educational funding and the resulting educational opportunity afforded to the schoolchildren of Texas. This discrimination is, in large measure, attributable to significant disparities in the taxable wealth of local Texas school districts. This is a sufficient showing to raise a substantial question of discriminatory state action in violation of the Equal Protection Clause.
Despite the evident discriminatory effect of the Texas financing scheme, both the appellants and the majority raise substantial questions concerning the precise character of the disadvantaged class in this case. The District Court concluded that the Texas financing scheme draws "distinction between groups of citizens depending upon the wealth of the district in which they live" and thus creates a disadvantaged class composed of persons living in property-poor districts. See 337 F. Supp., at 282. See also id., at 281. In light of the data introduced before the District Court, the conclusion that the schoolchildren of property-poor districts constitute a sufficient class for our purposes seems indisputable to me.
Appellants contend, however, that in constitutional terms this case involves nothing more than discrimination against local school districts, not against individuals, since on its face the state scheme is concerned only with the provision of funds to local districts. The result of the Texas financing scheme, appellants suggest, is merely that some local districts have more available revenues for education; others have less. In that respect,
But this Court has consistently recognized that where there is in fact discrimination against individual interests, the constitutional guarantee of equal protection of the laws is not inapplicable simply because the discrimination is based upon some group characteristic such as geographic location. See Gordon v. Lance, 403 U.S. 1, 4 (1971); Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533, 565-566 (1964); Gray v. Sanders 372 U.S. 368, 379 (1963). Texas has chosen to provide free public education for all its citizens, and it has embodied that decision in its constitution.
In my Brother STEWART'S view, however, such a description of the discrimination inherent in this case is apparently not sufficient, for it fails to define the "kind of objectively identifiable classes" that he evidently perceives
It may be, though, that my Brother STEWART is not in fact demanding precise identification of the membership of the disadvantaged class for purposes of equal protection analysis, but is merely unable to discern with sufficient clarity the nature of the discrimination charged in this case. Indeed, the Court itself displays some uncertainty as to the exact nature of the discrimination and the resulting disadvantaged class alleged to exist in this case. See ante, at 19-20. It is, of course, essential to equal protection analysis to have a firm grasp upon the nature of the discrimination at issue. In fact, the absence of such a clear, articulable understanding of the nature of alleged discrimination in a particular instance may well suggest the absence of any real discrimination. But such is hardly the case here.
A number of theories of discrimination have, to be sure, been considered in the course of this litigation. Thus, the District Court found that in Texas the poor and minority group members tend to live in property-poor districts, suggesting discrimination on the basis of both personal wealth and race. See 337 F. Supp., at 282 and n. 3. The Court goes to great lengths to discredit the data upon which the District Court relied, and thereby its conclusion that poor people live in property-poor districts.
To avoid having the Texas financing scheme struck down because of the interdistrict variations in taxable property wealth, the District Court determined that it was insufficient for appellants to show merely that the State's scheme was rationally related to some legitimate state purpose; rather, the discrimination inherent in the scheme had to be shown necessary to promote a "compelling state interest" in order to withstand constitutional scrutiny. The basis for this determination was twofold: first, the financing scheme divides citizens on a wealth basis, a classification which the District Court viewed as highly suspect; and second, the discriminatory scheme directly affects what it considered to be a "fundamental interest," namely, education.
This Court has repeatedly held that state discrimination which either adversely affects a "fundamental interest," see, e. g., Dunn v. Blumstein, 405 U.S. 330, 336-342 (1972); Shapiro v. Thompson, 394 U.S. 618, 629-631 (1969), or is based on a distinction of a suspect character, see, e. g., Graham v. Richardson, 403 U.S. 365, 372
To begin, I must once more voice my disagreement with the Court's rigidified approach to equal protection analysis. See Dandridge v. Williams, 397 U.S. 471, 519-521 (1970) (dissenting opinion); Richardson v. Belcher, 404 U.S. 78, 90 (1971) (dissenting opinion). The Court apparently seeks to establish today that equal protection cases fall into one of two neat categories which dictate the appropriate standard of review—strict scrutiny or mere rationality. But this Court's decisions in the field of equal protection defy such easy categorization. A principled reading of what this Court has done reveals that it has applied a spectrum of standards in reviewing discrimination allegedly violative of the Equal Protection
I therefore cannot accept the majority's labored efforts to demonstrate that fundamental interests, which call for strict scrutiny of the challenged classification, encompass only established rights which we are somehow bound to recognize from the text of the Constitution itself. To be sure, some interests which the Court has deemed to be fundamental for purposes of equal protection analysis are themselves constitutionally protected rights. Thus, discrimination against the guaranteed right of freedom of speech has called for strict judicial scrutiny. See Police Dept. of Chicago v. Mosley, 408 U.S. 92 (1972). Further, every citizen's right to travel interstate, although nowhere expressly mentioned in the Constitution, has long been recognized as implicit in the premises underlying that document: the right "was conceived from the beginning to be a necessary concomitant of the stronger Union the Constitution created." United States v. Guest, 383 U.S. 745, 758 (1966). See also Crandall v. Nevada, 6 Wall. 35, 48 (1868). Consequently, the Court has required that a state classification affecting the constitutionally
I would like to know where the Constitution guarantees the right to procreate, Skinner v. Oklahoma, 316 U.S. 535, 541 (1942), or the right to vote in state elections, e. g., Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533 (1964), or the right to an appeal from a criminal conviction, e. g., Griffin v. Illinois, 351 U.S. 12 (1956). These are instances in which, due to the importance of the interests at stake, the Court has displayed a strong concern with the existence of discriminatory state treatment. But the Court has never said or indicated that these are interests which independently enjoy full-blown constitutional protection.
Thus, in Buck v. Bell, 274 U.S. 200 (1927), the Court refused to recognize a substantive constitutional guarantee of the right to procreate. Nevertheless, in Skinner v. Oklahoma, supra, at 541, the Court, without impugning the continuing validity of Buck v. Bell, held that "strict scrutiny" of state discrimination affecting procreation "is essential," for "[m]arriage and procreation are fundamental to the very existence and survival of the race." Recently, in Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 152-154 (1973),
Similarly, the right to vote in state elections has been recognized as a "fundamental political right," because the Court concluded very early that it is "preservative of all rights." Yick Wo v. Hopkins, 118 U.S. 356, 370 (1886); see, e. g., Reynolds v. Sims, supra, at 561-562. For this reason, "this Court has made clear that a citizen has a constitutionally protected right to participate in elections on an equal basis with other citizens in the jurisdiction." Dunn v. Blumstein, 405 U. S., at 336 (emphasis added). The final source of such protection from inequality in the provision of the state franchise is, of course, the Equal Protection Clause. Yet it is clear that whatever degree of importance has been attached to the state electoral process when unequally distributed, the right to vote in state elections has itself never been accorded the stature of an independent constitutional guarantee.
The majority is, of course, correct when it suggests that the process of determining which interests are fundamental is a difficult one. But I do not think the problem is insurmountable. And I certainly do not accept the view that the process need necessarily degenerate into an unprincipled, subjective "picking-and-choosing" between various interests or that it must involve this Court in creating "substantive constitutional rights in the name of guaranteeing equal protection of the laws," ante, at 33. Although not all fundamental interests are constitutionally guaranteed, the determination of which interests are fundamental should be firmly rooted in the text of the Constitution. The task in every case should be to determine the extent to which constitutionally guaranteed rights are dependent on interests not mentioned in the Constitution. As the nexus between the specific constitutional guarantee and the nonconstitutional interest draws closer, the nonconstitutional interest becomes
The effect of the interaction of individual interests with established constitutional guarantees upon the degree of care exercised by this Court in reviewing state discrimination affecting such interests is amply illustrated by our decision last Term in Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 U.S. 438 (1972). In Baird, the Court struck down as violative of the Equal Protection Clause a state statute which denied unmarried persons access to contraceptive devices on the same basis as married persons. The Court
A similar process of analysis with respect to the invidiousness of the basis on which a particular classification is drawn has also influenced the Court as to the
In James v. Strange, 407 U.S. 128 (1972), the Court held unconstitutional a state statute which provided for recoupment from indigent convicts of legal defense fees paid by the State. The Court found that the statute impermissibly differentiated between indigent criminals in debt to the State and civil judgment debtors, since criminal debtors were denied various protective exemptions
The Court, in short, clearly did not consider the problems of fraud and collection that the state legislature might have concluded were peculiar to indigent criminal defendants to be either sufficiently important or at least sufficiently substantiated to justify denial of the protective exemptions afforded to all civil judgment debtors, to a class composed exclusively of indigent criminal debtors.
Similarly, in Reed v. Reed, 404 U.S. 71 (1971), the Court, in striking down a state statute which gave men
James and Reed can only be understood as instances in which the particularly invidious character of the classification caused the Court to pause and scrutinize with more than traditional care the rationality of state discrimination. Discrimination on the basis of past criminality and on the basis of sex posed for the Court the specter of forms of discrimination which it implicitly recognized to have deep social and legal roots without necessarily having any basis in actual differences. Still,
In Weber, the Court struck down a portion of a state workmen's compensation statute that relegated unacknowledged illegitimate children of the deceased to a lesser status with respect to benefits than that occupied by legitimate children of the deceased. The Court acknowledged the true nature of its inquiry in cases such as these: "What legitimate state interest does the classification promote? What fundamental personal rights might the classification endanger?" Id., at 173. Embarking upon a determination of the relative substantiality of the State's justifications for the classification, the Court rejected the contention that the classifications reflected what might be presumed to have been the deceased's preference of beneficiaries as "not compelling . . . where dependency on the deceased is a prerequisite to anyone's recovery . . . ." Ibid. Likewise, it deemed the relationship between the State's interest in encouraging legitimate family relationships and the burden placed on the illegitimates too tenuous to permit the classification to stand. Ibid. A clear insight into the basis of the Court's action is provided by its conclusion:
Status of birth, like the color of one's skin, is something which the individual cannot control, and should generally be irrelevant in legislative considerations. Yet illegitimacy has long been stigmatized by our society. Hence, discrimination on the basis of birth—particularly when it affects innocent children—warrants special judicial consideration.
In summary, it seems to me inescapably clear that this Court has consistently adjusted the care with which it will review state discrimination in light of the constitutional significance of the interests affected and the invidiousness of the particular classification. In the context of economic interests, we find that discriminatory state action is almost always sustained, for such interests are generally far removed from constitutional guarantees. Moreover, "[t]he extremes to which the Court has gone in dreaming up rational bases for state regulation in that area may in many instances be ascribed to a healthy revulsion from the Court's earlier excesses in using the Constitution to protect interests that have more than enough power to protect themselves in the legislative halls." Dandridge v. Williams, 397 U. S., at 520 (dissenting opinion). But the situation differs markedly when discrimination against important individual interests with constitutional implications and against particularly disadvantaged or powerless classes is involved. The majority suggests, however, that a variable standard of review would give this Court the appearance of a "superlegislature." Ante, at 31. I cannot agree. Such an approach seems to me a part of the guarantees of our Constitution and of the historic experiences with oppression of and discrimination against discrete, powerless minorities which underlie that document. In truth,
Nevertheless, the majority today attempts to force this case into the same category for purposes of equal protection analysis as decisions involving discrimination affecting commercial interests. By so doing, the majority singles this case out for analytic treatment at odds with what seems to me to be the clear trend of recent decisions in this Court, and thereby ignores the constitutional importance of the interest at stake and the invidiousness of the particular classification, factors that call for far more than the lenient scrutiny of the Texas financing scheme which the majority pursues. Yet if the discrimination inherent in the Texas scheme is scrutinized with the care demanded by the interest and classification present in this case, the unconstitutionality of that scheme is unmistakable.
Since the Court now suggests that only interests guaranteed by the Constitution are fundamental for purposes of equal protection analysis, and since it rejects
The special concern of this Court with the educational process of our country is a matter of common knowledge. Undoubtedly, this Court's most famous statement on the subject is that contained in Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U. S., at 493:
Only last Term, the Court recognized that "[p]roviding public schools ranks at the very apex of the function of a State." Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205, 213 (1972). This is clearly borne out by the fact that in 48
Education directly affects the ability of a child to exercise his First Amendment rights, both as a source and as a receiver of information and ideas, whatever interests he may pursue in life. This Court's decision in Sweezy v. New Hampshire, 354 U.S. 234, 250 (1957), speaks of the right of students "to inquire, to study and to evaluate, to gain new maturity and understanding. . . ." Thus, we have not casually described the classroom as the " `marketplace of ideas.' " Keyishian v. Board of Regents, 385 U.S. 589, 603 (1967). The opportunity for formal education may not necessarily be the essential determinant of an individual's ability to enjoy throughout his life the rights of free speech and association
Of particular importance is the relationship between education and the political process. "Americans regard the public schools as a most vital civic institution for the preservation of a democratic system of government." Abington School Dist. v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203, 230 (1963) (BRENNAN, J., concurring). Education serves the essential function of instilling in our young an understanding of and appreciation for the principles and operation of our governmental processes.
While ultimately disputing little of this, the majority seeks refuge in the fact that the Court has "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." Ante, at 36. This serves only to blur what is in fact at stake. With due respect, the issue is neither provision of the most effective speech nor of the most informed vote. Appellees
The District Court found that in discriminating between Texas schoolchildren on the basis of the amount of taxable property wealth located in the district in which they live, the Texas financing scheme created a form of wealth discrimination. This Court has frequently recognized that discrimination on the basis of wealth may create a classification of a suspect character and thereby call for exacting judicial scrutiny. See e. g., Griffin v. Illinois, 351 U.S. 12 (1956); Douglas v. California, 372 U.S. 353 (1963); McDonald v. Board of Election Comm'rs of Chicago, 394 U.S. 802, 807 (1969). The majority, however, considers any wealth classification in this case to lack certain essential characteristics which it contends are common to the instances of wealth discrimination that this Court has heretofore recognized. We are told that in every prior case involving a wealth classification, the members of the disadvantaged class have "shared two distinguishing characteristics: because
In Harper, the Court struck down as violative of the Equal Protection Clause an annual Virginia poll tax of $1.50, payment of which by persons over the age of 21 was a prerequisite to voting in Virginia elections. In part, the Court relied on the fact that the poll tax interfered with a fundamental interest—the exercise of the state franchise. In addition, though, the Court emphasized that "[l]ines drawn on the basis of wealth or property . . . are traditionally disfavored." 383 U. S., at 668. Under the first part of the theory announced by the majority, the disadvantaged class in Harper, in terms of a wealth analysis, should have consisted only of those too poor to afford the $1.50 necessary to vote. But the Harper Court did not see it that way. In its view, the Equal Protection Clause "bars a system which excludes [from the franchise] those unable to pay a fee to vote or who fail to pay." Ibid. (Emphasis added.) So far as the Court was concerned, the "degree of the discrimination [was] irrelevant." Ibid. Thus, the Court struck down the poll tax in toto; it did not order merely that those too poor to pay the tax be exempted; complete impecunity clearly was not determinative of the limits of the disadvantaged class, nor was it essential to make an equal protection claim.
This is not to say that the form of wealth classification in this case does not differ significantly from those recognized in the previous decisions of this Court. Our prior cases have dealt essentially with discrimination on the basis of personal wealth.
As the Court points out, ante, at 28-29, no previous decision has deemed the presence of just a wealth classification to be sufficient basis to call forth rigorous judicial scrutiny of allegedly discriminatory state action. Compare, e. g., Harper v. Virginia Bd. of Elections, supra, with, e. g., James v. Valtierra, 402 U.S. 137 (1971). That wealth classifications alone have not necessarily been considered to bear the same high degree of suspectness as have classifications based on, for instance, race or alienage may be explainable on a number of grounds. The "poor" may not be seen as politically powerless as certain discrete and insular minority groups.
When evaluated with these considerations in mind, it seems to me that discrimination on the basis of group wealth in this case likewise calls for careful judicial scrutiny. First, it must be recognized that while local district wealth may serve other interests,
The disability of the disadvantaged class in this case extends as well into the political processes upon which we ordinarily rely as adequate for the protection and promotion of all interests. Here legislative reallocation of the State's property wealth must be sought in the face of inevitable opposition from significantly advantaged districts that have a strong vested interest in the preservation of the status quo, a problem not completely dissimilar to that faced by underrepresented districts prior to the Court's intervention in the process of reapportionment,
Nor can we ignore the extent to which, in contrast to our prior decisions, the State is responsible for the wealth discrimination in this instance. Griffin, Douglas, Williams, Tate, and our other prior cases have dealt with discrimination on the basis of indigency which was attributable to the operation of the private sector. But we have no such simple de facto wealth discrimination here. The means for financing public education in Texas are selected and specified by the State. It is the State that has created local school districts, and tied educational funding to the local property tax and thereby to local district wealth. At the same time, governmentally
In the final analysis, then, the invidious characteristics of the group wealth classification present in this case merely serve to emphasize the need for careful judicial scrutiny of the State's justifications for the resulting interdistrict discrimination in the educational opportunity afforded to the schoolchildren of Texas.
The nature of our inquiry into the justification for state discrimination is essentially the same in all equal protection cases: We must consider the substantiality of the state interests sought to be served, and we must scrutinize the reasonableness of the means by which the State has sought to advance its interest. See Police Dept. of Chicago v. Mosley, 408 U. S., at 95. Differences in the application of this test are, in my view, a function of the constitutional importance of the interests at stake and the invidiousness of the particular classification. In terms of the asserted state interests, the Court has indicated that it will require, for instance, a "compelling," Shapiro v. Thompson, 394 U. S., at 634, or a "substantial"
The only justification offered by appellants to sustain the discrimination in educational opportunity caused by the Texas financing scheme is local educational control. Presented with this justification, the District Court concluded that "[n]ot only are defendants unable to demonstrate compelling state interests for their classifications based upon wealth, they fail even to establish a reasonable basis for these classifications." 337 F. Supp., at 284. I must agree with this conclusion.
At the outset, I do not question that local control of public education, as an abstract matter, constitutes a very substantial state interest. We observed only last Term that "[d]irect control over decisions vitally affecting the education of one's children is a need that is strongly felt in our society." Wright v. Council of the City of Emporia, 407 U.S. 451, 469 (1972). See also id., at 477-478 (BURGER, C. J., dissenting). The State's interest in local educational control—which certainly includes questions of educational funding—has deep roots in the inherent benefits of community support for public education. Consequently, true state dedication to local control would present, I think, a substantial justification to weigh against simply interdistrict variations in the treatment of a State's schoolchildren. But I need not now decide how I might ultimately strike the balance were we confronted with a situation where the State's sincere concern for local control inevitably produced educational inequality. For, on this record, it is apparent that the State's purported concern with local control is offered primarily as an excuse rather than as a justification for interdistrict inequality.
In Texas, statewide laws regulate in fact the most minute details of local public education. For example,
See also El Dorado Independent School District v. Tisdale, 3 S.W.2d 420, 422 (Tex. Comm'n App. 1928).
Moreover, even if we accept Texas' general dedication to local control in educational matters, it is difficult to find any evidence of such dedication with respect to fiscal matters. It ignores reality to suggest—as the Court does, ante, at 49-50—that the local property tax element of the Texas financing scheme reflects a conscious legislative effort to provide school districts with local fiscal control. If Texas had a system truly dedicated to local fiscal control, one would expect the quality of the educational opportunity provided in each district to vary with the decision of the voters in that district as
The study introduced in the District Court showed a direct inverse relationship between equalized taxable district property wealth and district tax effort with the result that the property-poor districts making the highest tax effort obtained the lowest per-pupil yield.
In my judgment, any substantial degree of scrutiny of the operation of the Texas financing scheme reveals that the State has selected means wholly inappropriate to secure its purported interest in assuring its school districts local fiscal control.
In conclusion, it is essential to recognize that an end to the wide variations in taxable district property wealth inherent in the Texas financing scheme would entail none of the untoward consequences suggested by the Court or by the appellants.
First, affirmance of the District Court's decisions would hardly sound the death knell for local control of education. It would mean neither centralized decisionmaking nor federal court intervention in the operation of public schools. Clearly, this suit has nothing to do with local decisionmaking with respect to educational policy or even educational spending. It involves only a narrow aspect of local control—namely, local control over the raising of educational funds. In fact, in striking down interdistrict disparities in taxable local wealth, the District Court took the course which is most likely to make true local control over educational decisionmaking a reality for all Texas school districts.
Nor does the District Court's decision even necessarily eliminate local control of educational funding. The District Court struck down nothing more than the continued interdistrict wealth discrimination inherent in the present property tax. Both centralized and decentralized plans for educational funding not involving such interdistrict discrimination have been put forward.
Still, we are told that this case requires us "to condemn the State's judgment in conferring on political subdivisions the power to tax local property to supply revenues for local interest." Ante, at 40. Yet no one in the course of this entire litigation has ever questioned the constitutionality of the local property tax as a device for raising educational funds. The District Court's decision, at most, restricts the power of the State to make educational funding dependent exclusively upon local property taxation so long as there exists interdistrict disparities in taxable property wealth. But it hardly eliminates the local property tax as a source of educational funding or as a means of providing local fiscal control.
The Court seeks solace for its action today in the possibility of legislative reform. The Court's suggestions of legislative redress and experimentation will doubtless be of great comfort to the schoolchildren of Texas' disadvantaged districts, but considering the vested interests of wealthy school districts in the preservation of the status quo, they are worth little more. The possibility of legislative action is, in all events, no answer to this Court's duty under the Constitution to eliminate unjustified state discrimination. In this case we have been presented with an instance of such discrimination, in a particularly invidious form, against an individual interest of large constitutional and practical importance. To support the demonstrated discrimination in the provision
I would therefore affirm the judgment of the District Court.
[Appendices I-IV are on the immediately following pages.]
APPENDIX I TO OPINION OF MARSHALL, J., DISSENTING
REVENUES OF TEXAS SCHOOL DISTRICTS CATEGORIZED BY EQUALIZED PROPERTY VALUES AND SOURCE OF FUNDS
CATEGORIES Total Revenues State and Local Per Pupil Market Value of Revenues Per Federal (State-Local-Federal, Taxable Property Local Revenues State Revenues Pupil (Columns Revenues Columns Per Pupil Per Pupil Per Pupil 1 and 2) Per Pupil 1, 2 and 4) Above $100,000 $610 $205 $815 $41 $856 (10 districts) $100,000-$50,000 287 257 544 66 610 (26 districts) $50,000-$30,000 224 260 484 45 529 (30 districts) $30,000-$10,000 166 295 461 85 546 (40 districts) Below $10,000 63 243 306 135 441 (4 districts)
Based on Table V to affidavit of Joel S. Berke, App. 208, which was prepared on the basis of a sample of 110 selected Texas school districts from data for the 1967-1968 school year.
APPENDIX II TO OPINION OF MARSHALL, J., DISSENTING
TEXAS SCHOOL DISTRICTS CATEGORIZED BY EQUALIZED PROPERTY VALUES, EQUALIZED TAX RATES, AND YIELD OF RATES
CATEGORIES EQUALIZED YIELD PER PUPIL Market Value of TAX (Equalized Rate Taxable Property RATES Applied to District Per Pupil ON $100 Market Value) Above $100,000 $.31 $585 (10 districts) $100,000-$50,000 .38 262 (26 districts) $50,000-$30,000 .55 213 (30 districts) $30,000-$10,000 .72 162 (40 districts) Below $10,000 .70 60 (4 districts)
Based on Table II to affidavit of Joel S. Berke, App. 205, which was prepared on the basis of a sample of 110 selected Texas school districts from data for the 1967-1968 school year.
APPENDIX III TO OPINION OF MARSHALL, J., DISSENTING
SELECTED BEXAR COUNTY, TEXAS, SCHOOL DISTRICTS CATEGORIZED BY EQUALIZED PROPERTY VALUATION AND SELECTED INDICATORS OF EDUCATIONAL QUALITY
Selected Districts Per Cent of Per Cent of From High to Low by Professional Teachers With Total Staff Student-Counselor Professional Market Valuation Salaries Per College Masters With Emergency Ratios Personnel Per Pupil Pupil Degrees Degrees Permits Per 100 Pupils ALAMO HEIGHTS $372 100% 40% 11% 645 4.80 NORTH EAST 288 99 24 7 1,516 4.50 SAN ANTONIO 251 98 29 17 2,320 4.00 NORTH SIDE 258 99 20 17 1,493 4.30 HARLANDALE 243 94 21 22 1,800 4.00 EDGEWOOD 209 96 15 47 3,098 4.06
Based on Table XI to affidavit of Joel S. Berke, App. 220, which was prepared on the basis of a sample of six selected school districts located in Bexar County, Texas, from data for the 1967-1968 school year.
APPENDIX IV TO OPINION OF MARSHALL, J., DISSENTING
BEXAR COUNTY, TEXAS, SCHOOL DISTRICTS RANKED BY EQUALIZED PROPERTY VALUE AND TAX RATE REQUIRED TO GENERATE HIGHEST YIELD IN ALL DISTRICTS
Districts Ranked from Tax Rate Per $100 High to Low Market Needed to Equal Valuation Per Pupil Highest Yield ALAMO HEIGHTS $0.68 JUDSON 1.04 EAST CENTRAL 1.17 NORTH EAST 1.21 SOMERSET 1.32 SAN ANTONIO 1.56 NORTH SIDE 1.65 SOUTH WEST 2.10 SOUTH SIDE 3.03 HARLANDALE 3.20 SOUTH SAN ANTONIO 5.77 EDGEWOOD 5.76
Based on Table IX to affidavit of Joel S. Berke, App. 218, which was prepared on the basis of the 12 school districts located in Bexar County, Texas, from data from the 1967-1968 school year.
Briefs of amici curiae urging affirmance were filed by David Bonderman and Peter Van N. Lockwood for Wendell Anderson, Governor of Minnesota, et al.; by Robert R. Coffman for Wilson Riles, Superintendent of Public Instruction of California, et al.; by Roderick M. Hills for Houston I. Flournoy, Controller of California; by Ramsey Clark, John Silard, David C. Long, George L. Russell, Jr., Harold J. Ruvoldt, Jr., J. Albert Woll, Thomas E. Harris, John Ligtenberg, A. L. Zwerdling, and Stephen I. Schlossberg for the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore et al.; by George H. Spencer for San Antonio Independent School District; by Norman Dorsen, Marvin M. Karpatkin, Melvin L. Wulf, Paul S. Berger, Joseph B. Robison, Arnold Forster, and Stanley P. Hebert for the American Civil Liberties Union et al.; by Jack Greenberg, James M. Nabrit III, Norman J. Chachkin, and Abraham Sofaer for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.; by Stephen J. Pollak, Ralph J. Moore, Jr., Richard M. Sharp, and David Rubin for the National Education Assn. et al.; and by John E. Coons for John Serrano, Jr., et al.
Briefs of amici curiae were filed by Lawrence E. Walsh, Victor W. Bouldin, Richard B. Smith, and Guy M. Struve for the Republic National Bank of Dallas et al., and by Joseph R. Cortese, Joseph Guandolo, Bryce Huguenin, Manly W. Mumford, Joseph H. Johnson, Jr., Joseph Rudd, Fred H. Rosenfeld, Herschel H. Friday, George Herrington, Harry T. Ice, Cornelius W. Grafton, Fred G. Benton, Jr., Eugene E. Huppenbauer, Jr., Harold B. Judell, Robert B. Fizzell, John B. Dawson, George J. Fagin, Howard A. Rankin, Huger Sinkler, Robert W. Spence, Hobby H. McCall, James R. Ellis, and William J. Kiernan, Jr., Bond Counsel.
"A general diffusion of knowledge being essential to the preservation of the rights and liberties of the people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature of this State to make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of public schools."
Id., § 2:
"The Legislature shall as early as practicable establish free schools throughout the State, and shall furnish means for their support, by taxation on property . . . ."
Categorized by Equalized Property Values, Median Family Income, and State-Local Revenue
Market Value Median State & of Taxable Family Per Cent Local Property Income Minority Revenues Per Pupil From 1960 Pupils Per Pupil Above $100,000 $5,900 8% $815 (10 districts) $100,000-$50,000 $4,425 32% $544 (26 districts) $50,000-$30,000 $4,900 23% $483 (30 districts) $30,000-$10,000 $5,050 31% $462 (40 districts) Below $10,000 $3,325 79% $305 (4 districts)
Although the correlations with respect to family income and race appear only to exist at the extremes, and although the affiant's methodology has been questioned (see Goldstein, Interdistrict Inequalities in School Financing: A Critical Analysis of Serrano v. Priest and its Progeny, 120 U. Pa. L. Rev. 504, 523-525, nn. 67, 71 (1972)), insofar as any of these correlations is relevant to the constitutional thesis presented in this case we may accept its basic thrust. But see infra, at 25-27. For a defense of the reliability of the affidavit, see Berke, Carnevale, Morgan & White, supra, n. 29.
As previously noted, see text accompanying n. 86, supra, the extent to which the quality of education varies with expenditure per pupil is debated inconclusively by the most thoughtful students of public education. While all would agree that there is a correlation up to the point of providing the recognized essentials in facilities and academic opportunities, the issues of greatest disagreement include the effect on the quality of education of pupil-teacher ratios and of higher teacher salary schedules. E. g., Office of Education, supra, n. 86, at 316-319. The state funding in Texas is designed to assure, on the average, one teacher for every 25 students, which is considered to be a favorable ratio by most standards. Whether the minimum salary of $6,000 per year is sufficient in Texas to attract qualified teachers may be more debatable, depending in major part upon the location of the school district. But there appear to be few empirical data that support the advantage of any particular pupil-teacher ratio or that document the existence of a dependable correlation between the level of public school teachers' salaries and the quality of their classroom instruction. An intractable problem in dealing with teachers' salaries is the absence, up to this time, of satisfactory techniques for judging their ability or performance. Relatively few school systems have merit plans of any kind, with the result that teachers' salaries are usually increased across the board in a way which tends to reward the least deserving on the same basis as the most deserving. Salaries are usually raised automatically on the basis of length of service and according to predetermined "steps," extending over 10- to 12-year periods.
"Under existing law, counties are precluded from doing anything in this area, even to spend their own funds if they so desire. This corrective legislation is urgently needed in order to allow counties to go above and beyond the State's standards and provide educational facilities as good as the people of the counties want and are willing to pay for. Allowing local communities to go above and beyond established minimums to provide for their people encourages the best features of democratic government." Haw. Sess. Laws 1968, Act 38, § 1.
Theoretically, Texas law limits the tax rate for public school maintenance, see id., § 20.02, to $1.50 per $100 valuation, see id., § 20.04 (d). However, it does not appear that any Texas district presently taxes itself at the highest rate allowable, although some poor districts are approaching it, see App. 174.
While the Court takes issue with much of Professor Berke's data and conclusions, ante, at 15-16, n. 38, and 25-27, I do not understand its criticism to run to the basic finding of a correlation between taxable district property per pupil and local revenues per pupil. The critique of Professor Berke's methodology upon which the Court relies, see Goldstein, Interdistrict Inequalities in School Financing: A Critical Analysis of Serrano v. Priest and its Progeny, 120 U. Pa. L. Rev. 504, 523-525, nn. 67, 71 (1972), is directed only at the suggested correlations between family income and taxable district wealth and between race and taxable district wealth. Obviously, the appellants do not question the relationship in Texas between taxable district wealth and per-pupil expenditures; and there is no basis for the Court to do so, whatever the criticisms that may be leveled at other aspects of Professor Berke's study, see infra, n. 56.
The Permanent School Fund is, in essence, a public trust initially endowed with vast quantities of public land, the sale of which has provided an enormous corpus that in turn produces substantial annual revenues which are devoted exclusively to public education. See Tex. Const., Art. 7, § 5 (Supp. 1972). See also 5 Report of Governor's Committee on Public School Education. The Challenge and the Chance 11 (1969) (hereinafter Governor's Committee Report).
The state salary standards focus upon two factors: the educational level and the experience of the district's teachers. See id., §§ 16.301-16.316. The higher these two factors are, the more funds the district will receive from the Foundation Program for professional salaries.
It should be apparent that the net effect of this scheme is to provide more assistance to property-rich districts than to property-poor ones. For rich districts are able to pay their teachers, out of local funds, salary increments above the state minimum levels. Thus, the rich districts are able to attract the teachers with the best education and the most experience. To complete the circle, this then means, given the state standards, that the rich districts receive more from the Foundation Program for professional salaries than do poor districts. A portion of Professor Berke's study vividly illustrates the impact of the State's standards on districts of varying wealth. See Appendix III, post, p. 136.
Furthermore, the article upon which the Court relies to discredit the statistical procedures employed by Professor Berke to establish the correlation between poor people and poor districts, see n. 11, supra, based its criticism primarily on the fact that only four of the 110 districts studied were in the lowest of the five categories, which were determined by relative taxable property per pupil, and most districts clustered in the middle three groups. See Goldstein, Interdistrict Inequalities in School Financing: A Critical Analysis of Serrano v. Priest and its Progeny, 120 U. Pa. L. Rev. 504, 524 n. 67 (1972). See also ante, at 26-27. But the Court fails to note that the four poorest districts in the sample had over 50,000 students which constituted 10% of the students in the entire sample. It appears, moreover, that even when the richest and the poorest categories are enlarged to include in each category 20% of the students in the sample, the correlation between district and individual wealth holds true. See Brief for the Governors of Minnesota, Maine, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Michigan as amici Curiae 17 n. 21.
Finally, it cannot be ignored that the data introduced by appellees went unchallenged in the District Court. The majority's willingness to permit appellants to litigate the correctness of those data for the first time before this tribunal—where effective response by appellees is impossible—is both unfair and judicially unsound.
"[I]n a democratic society, public understanding of public issues is necessary for public support. Schools generally include in their courses of instruction a wide variety of subjects related to the history, structure and principles of American government at all levels. In so doing, schools provide students with a background of knowledge which is deemed an absolute necessity for responsible citizenship." Id., at 13-14.
That education is the dominant factor in influencing political participation and awareness is sufficient, I believe, to dispose of the Court's suggestion that, in all events, there is no indication that Texas is not providing all of its children with a sufficient education to enjoy the right of free speech and to participate fully in the political process. Ante, at 36-37. There is, in short, no limit on the amount of free speech or political participation that the Constitution guarantees. Moreover, it should be obvious that the political process, like most other aspects of social intercourse, is to some degree competitive. It is thus of little benefit to an individual from a property-poor district to have "enough" education if those around him have more than "enough." Cf. Sweatt v. Painter, 339 U.S. 629, 633-634 (1950).
"It would appear extraordinary to suggest that a State could be constitutionally permitted to enact a law providing that certain of the State's voters could vote two, five, or 10 times for their legislative representatives, while voters living elsewhere could vote only once. . . . Of course, the effect of state legislative districting schemes which give the same number of representatives to unequal numbers of constituents is identical. Overweighting and overvaluation of the votes of those living here has the certain effect of dilution and undervaluation of the votes of those living there. . . . Their right to vote is simply not the same right to vote as that of those living in a favored part of the State. . . . One must be ever aware that the Constitution forbids `sophisticated as well as simple-minded modes of discrimination.' "
See also Gray v. Sanders, 372 U.S. 368, 380-381 (1963). The Court gives no explanation why a case involving wealth discrimination should be treated any differently.
A second possibility is the much-discussed theory of district power equalization put forth by Professors Coons, Clune, and Sugarman in their seminal work, Private Wealth and Public Education 201-242 (1970). Such a scheme would truly reflect a dedication to local fiscal control. Under their system, each school district would receive a fixed amount of revenue per pupil for any particular level of tax effort regardless of the level of local property tax base. Appellants criticize this scheme on the rather extraordinary ground that it would encourage poorer districts to overtax themselves in order to obtain substantial revenues for education. But under the present discriminatory scheme, it is the poor districts that are already taxing themselves at the highest rates, yet are receiving the lowest returns.
District wealth reapportionment is yet another alternative which would accomplish directly essentially what district power equalization would seek to do artificially. Appellants claim that the calculations concerning state property required by such a scheme would be impossible as a practical matter. Yet Texas is already making far more complex annual calculations—involving not only local property values but also local income and other economic factors— in conjunction with the Local Fund Assignment portion of the Minimum Foundation School Program. See 5 Governor's Committee Report 43-44.
A fourth possibility would be to remove commercial, industrial, and mineral property from local tax rolls, to tax this property on a statewide basis, and to return the resulting revenues to the local districts in a fashion that would compensate for remaining variations in the local tax bases.
None of these particular alternatives are necessarily constitutionally compelled; rather, they indicate the breadth of choice which would remain to the State if the present interdistrict disparities were eliminated.