Bonner ex rel. Bonner v. Daniels, No. 49A02-0702-CV-188.

Docket NºNo. 49A02-0702-CV-188.
Citation885 N.E.2d 673
Case DateMay 02, 2008
CourtCourt of Appeals of Indiana
885 N.E.2d 673
Philip-Anthony BONNER, a minor, by his parents and next friends, Joseph and LaTanya BONNER, William-Thomas Bobo, a minor, by his mother and next friend, Clarissa Wan Bobo, John Brooks, Jr., a minor, by his father and next friend, John Brooks, Sr., Aaron Wesley Carver, a minor, by his parents and next friends, Lester and Vanessa Carver, Thomas James Harris, a minor, by his mother and next friend, Patricia Harris, Demi Murry, a minor, by her grandparents and next friends, Patricia and Charles Murry, Dameesha Fletcher, a minor, by her mother and next friend, Loretta Fletcher, Brendan Johnson, a minor, by his mother and next friend, Ayana Johnson, and Albert Serna, a minor, by his parents and next friends, Berth and Cirilo Serna, On Behalf of Themselves and All Others Similarly Situated, Appellants-Plaintiffs,
v.
Mitch DANIELS, Governor of the State of Indiana and Co-Chair of the Education Roundtable, Suellen K. Reed, Indiana State Superintendent of Public Instruction and Chair of the State Board of Education and Co-Chair of the Education Roundtable, and the Indiana State Board Of Education, Appellees-Defendants.
No. 49A02-0702-CV-188.
Court of Appeals of Indiana.
May 2, 2008.

[885 N.E.2d 676]

Ronald J. Waicukauski, Jana K. Strain, Price Waicukauski & Riley, LLC, Indianapolis, IN, Michael D. Weisman, Rebecca P. McIntyre, Weisman & McIntyre Boston, MA, Attorneys for Appellants.

Jerry Garau, Findling Garau Germano & Pennington, P.C., Indianapolis, IN, Molly A. Hunter, New York, NY, Ellen Boylan, Newark, NJ, Amanda G. Adler, Columbia, SC, Attorneys for AMICI Curiae in Support of Appellants.

Steve Carter, Attorney General of Indiana, Thomas M. Fisher, Solicitor General, Julie A. Brubaker, Deputy Attorney General, Indianapolis, IN, Attorneys for Appellees.

OPINION

RILEY, Judge.


STATEMENT OF THE CASE

Appellants-Plaintiffs, Philip-Anthony Bonner, a minor, by his parents and next friends, Joseph and LaTanya Bonner, et al., On Behalf of Themselves and All Others Similarly Situated (collectively, Bonner), appeal the trial court's Order to Dismiss entered in favor of Appellees-Defendants, Mitch Daniels, Governor of the State of Indiana and Co-Chair of the Education Roundtable (Governor Daniels),

885 N.E.2d 677

Suellen K. Reed, Indiana State Superintendent of Public Education and Co-Chair of the Education Roundtable (Dr. Reed), and the Indiana State Board of Education (Board of Education) (collectively, Appellees).1

We reverse and remand for further proceedings.

ISSUES

Bonner raises four issues on appeal, two of which we find dispositive2 and which we restate as follows:

(1) Whether the trial court erred in dismissing Bonner's cause finding that the justiciability standard precluded judicial review; and

(2) Whether the trial court erred in finding that the Education Clause, encapsulated in Article VIII, § 1 of the Indiana Constitution, does not provide judicially enforceable guidelines.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

This is a class action suit, spear-headed by nine students who attend public schools within the jurisdiction of eight different school corporations.3 Bonner seeks to represent a class of children similarly situated either because (1) they attend, or will attend, public school in the same school corporations; or (2) on account of their poverty, their race or ethnicity, their physical or mental disabilities, or their limited English proficiency, they are not receiving an education that equips them with the knowledge and skills they need to compete for productive employment, to pursue higher education, and to become responsible and informed citizens. The suit alleges that significant numbers of students in this class are failing to meet State academic standards and are not acquiring the minimum knowledge and skills mandated by the Education Clause of the Indiana Constitution. As a result, the cause maintains, this class is being denied skills that are essential to successful and productive citizenship.

The Board of Education has adopted academic standards for each grade level from kindergarten through grade twelve for English language, arts, mathematics, social studies, and science. These standards define the knowledge every public school student should possess at each grade level to succeed in school. Additionally, the Board of Education has adopted Standards for Technological Literacy, which define a student's expected ability to use, manage, assess, and understand current technology.

In order to evaluate a student's progress towards achieving these academic standards, Indiana uses various indicators which also serve to hold schools and school

885 N.E.2d 678

corporations accountable for providing their students with the education mandated by the State constitution. The reported indicators include performance on the Indiana State Test of Educational Progress (ISTEP +), graduation and dropout rates, SAT scores and participation rates, and the percentage of graduates pursuing higher education. The Complaint describes the data collected by the Department of Education on the various indicators for the eight school districts involved and for the State as a whole. This data appears to reveal that numerous students in the affected class are failing to meet state academic standards and are failing to acquire the minimum skills needed to lead successful lives. According to Bonner, one contributing factor to this low achievement is Indiana's failure to make available highquality instructional programs, such as early childhood education, appropriately small class sizes, summer school, remediation programs, supplemental reading instruction programs, and English language instruction programs.

Bonner's overarching claim revolves around Indiana's school-funding formula, alleging that Indiana's school finance system is arbitrary and, as a result, fails to meet the State's educational goals and the needs of the State's public school children. Since 1949, Indiana has relied on a Foundation Program to provide revenues for education to public school corporations. The Foundation Program is a series of interrelated formulas that determine the revenue school corporations should receive for providing basic educational services to their students and the division of funding between the State and local government. Under the Foundation Program, a school corporation's Foundation Grant is determined, in part, by the Average Daily Membership and the Complexity Index. The Average Daily Membership of each school corporation apportions money based on the number of students attending each school corporation, while the Complexity Index purports to reflect the socioeconomic status of the corporation's community. The theory of the Foundation Grant, with its Complexity Index, is that school corporations serving more at-risk student populations require more dollars to obtain the same level of student performance compared to school corporations serving less complex student populations.

Besides the Foundation Program, a school corporation might choose to calculate its basic tuition support by the Guaranteed Minimum Revenue. The Guaranteed Minimum Revenue ensures that every school corporation receives at least ninety-nine percent of the previous year's basic tuition support. Thus, each school has the choice to receive the greater of the Foundation Grant or the Guaranteed Minimum Revenue.

From 2000 through 2005, there was a significant decrease in the number of school corporations receiving revenue through the Complexity Index of the Foundation Grant. Specifically, in 2004 and 2005, less than fifteen percent of all school corporations received funding through the Foundation Grant, thereby rendering the Complexity Index, intended to benefit disadvantaged students, increasingly irrelevant in determining revenues.

Furthermore, school corporations do not receive any revenue from the State for debt service, capital projects, or special education preschool programs. They receive only a limited property tax replacement credit for school transportation and school bus replacement costs. Under the current financing system, school corporations must rely solely on their ability to levy and collect property taxes for these purposes, as well as for funding new school facilities, improvements or renovations in

885 N.E.2d 679

existing school facilities, and improvements to technology. As school corporations are completely dependent on local property wealth to fund new capital projects, there is a wide variation in the quality and quantity of school facilities across the State.

On April 20, 2006, Bonner filed a Class Action Complaint seeking a declaration of rights pursuant to Ind.Code § 34-14-1-1 et seq. that (1) the Indiana Constitution imposes an enforceable duty on the General Assembly to provide a quality public education that prepares all of Indiana's children to function in a complex and rapidly changing society, to discharge the duties and responsibilities of citizenship, and to compete successfully with their peers for productive employment and opportunities for advancement through higher education; and (2) Indiana's current system of financing violates the Indiana Constitution, with the result that the class of affected students are not receiving their constitutional right to education. On July 13, 2006, Appellees filed a Motion to Dismiss in accordance with Ind. Trial Rule 12(B)(1) and (6), arguing that (1) because the school corporations' funding program is a quintessential legislative policy decision, the courts, pursuant to the separation of powers doctrine, are precluded from adjudicating Bonner's claim, and (2) even if the claims were justiciable, Appellees, as named defendants, could not provide the relief sought. On September 29, 2006, Bonner filed his Opposition to [Appellees'] Motion to Dismiss. On November 6 and December 18, 2006, respectively, the parties filed a Reply Brief and a Sur-Reply Brief.

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3 practice notes
  • Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, Inc. v. Rell, (SC 18032) (Conn. 3/30/2010), (SC 18032).
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • March 30, 2010
    ...constitutionality of the public school system without unduly infringing on the legislature's policymaking authority"); Bonner v. Daniels, 885 N.E.2d 673, 689-90 (Ind. App. 2008) (rejecting claim that adequacy claim is unreviewable on ground that "school funding lies exclusively within the d......
  • Connecticut Coalition for Justice v. Rell, No. 18032.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • March 30, 2010
    ...constitutionality of the public school system without unduly infringing on the legislature's policymaking authority"); Bonner v. Daniels, 885 N.E.2d 673, 689-90 (Ind.App.2008) (rejecting claim that adequacy claim is unreviewable on ground that "school funding lies exclusively within the dom......
  • Bonner ex rel. Bonner v. Daniels, No. 49S02-0809-CV-525.
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • June 2, 2009
    ...quality education to public school students and that such duty is not being satisfied. The Court of Appeals reversed. Bonner v. Daniels, 885 N.E.2d 673 (Ind.Ct.App. 2008). We granted transfer and now affirm the trial court. Although recognizing the Indiana Constitution directs the General A......
3 cases
  • Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, Inc. v. Rell, (SC 18032) (Conn. 3/30/2010), (SC 18032).
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • March 30, 2010
    ...constitutionality of the public school system without unduly infringing on the legislature's policymaking authority"); Bonner v. Daniels, 885 N.E.2d 673, 689-90 (Ind. App. 2008) (rejecting claim that adequacy claim is unreviewable on ground that "school funding lies exclusively within the d......
  • Connecticut Coalition for Justice v. Rell, No. 18032.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • March 30, 2010
    ...constitutionality of the public school system without unduly infringing on the legislature's policymaking authority"); Bonner v. Daniels, 885 N.E.2d 673, 689-90 (Ind.App.2008) (rejecting claim that adequacy claim is unreviewable on ground that "school funding lies exclusively within the dom......
  • Bonner ex rel. Bonner v. Daniels, No. 49S02-0809-CV-525.
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • June 2, 2009
    ...quality education to public school students and that such duty is not being satisfied. The Court of Appeals reversed. Bonner v. Daniels, 885 N.E.2d 673 (Ind.Ct.App. 2008). We granted transfer and now affirm the trial court. Although recognizing the Indiana Constitution directs the General A......

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