Campbell County School Dist. v. State, No. O

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
Writing for the CourtBefore GOLDEN; GOLDEN; THOMAS; THOMAS; GOLDEN
Citation907 P.2d 1238
Parties105 Ed. Law Rep. 771 CAMPBELL COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT, State of Wyoming; et al., Appellants (Plaintiffs), v. STATE of Wyoming: Diana J. Ohman, State Superintendent of Public Instruction; et al., Appellees (Defendants), and Big Horn County School Districtne, State of Wyoming, et al., Appellees (Intervening Defendants). STATE of Wyoming: Diana Ohman, Superintendent of Public Instruction; Dave Ferrari, State Auditor; Nedolyn Testolin, Michael Glode, Karen Moulton, Lynn Dickey, Lynn Messenger, Elizabeth Field, Judy Campbell, Charlotte Levendosky, Jack Iversen, Wayne Mortensen, and John Andrikopoulos, Members of the Wyoming State Board of Education, Appellants (Defendants), v. CAMPBELL COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT, State of Wyoming, et al., Appellees (Plaintiffs), and Laramie County School Districtne, et al., and Wyoming Education Association, Appellees (Intervening Plaintiffs). LARAMIE COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT NUMBER ONE, State of Wyoming, Appellant (Intervening Plaintiff), v. Diana OHMAN, Superintendent of Public Instruction, State of Wyoming, et al., Appellees (Defendants), and Big Horn County School Districtne, State of Wyoming, et al., Appellees (Intervening Defendants). WYOMING EDUCATION ASSOCIATION, Appellant (Intervening Plaintiff), v. Diana OHMAN, Superintendent of Public Instruction, State of Wyoming, et al., Appellees (Defendants), and Big Horn County School Districtne, State of Wyoming, et al., Appellees (Intervening Defendants). BIG HORN COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. ONE, State of Wyoming, et al., Appellants (Intervening Defendants), v. CAMPBELL COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT, State of Wyoming, et al., Appellees (Plaintiffs), and Laramie County School Districtne, et al., and Wyoming Education Association, Appellees (Intervening Plaintiffs). thru 94-140.
Decision Date08 November 1995
Docket NumberNo. O,Nos. 94-136

Page 1238

907 P.2d 1238
105 Ed. Law Rep. 771
CAMPBELL COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT, State of Wyoming; et al., Appellants (Plaintiffs),
v.
STATE of Wyoming: Diana J. Ohman, State Superintendent of Public Instruction; et al., Appellees (Defendants),
and
Big Horn County School District No. One, State of Wyoming, et al., Appellees (Intervening Defendants).
STATE of Wyoming: Diana Ohman, Superintendent of Public Instruction; Dave Ferrari, State Auditor; Nedolyn Testolin, Michael Glode, Karen Moulton, Lynn Dickey, Lynn Messenger, Elizabeth Field, Judy Campbell, Charlotte Levendosky, Jack Iversen, Wayne Mortensen, and John Andrikopoulos, Members of the Wyoming State Board of Education, Appellants (Defendants),
v.
CAMPBELL COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT, State of Wyoming, et al., Appellees (Plaintiffs),
and
Laramie County School District No. One, et al., and Wyoming Education Association, Appellees (Intervening Plaintiffs).
LARAMIE COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT NUMBER ONE, State of Wyoming, Appellant (Intervening Plaintiff),
v.
Diana OHMAN, Superintendent of Public Instruction, State of Wyoming, et al., Appellees (Defendants),
and
Big Horn County School District No. One, State of Wyoming, et al., Appellees (Intervening Defendants).
WYOMING EDUCATION ASSOCIATION, Appellant (Intervening Plaintiff),
v.
Diana OHMAN, Superintendent of Public Instruction, State of Wyoming, et al., Appellees (Defendants),
and
Big Horn County School District No. One, State of Wyoming, et al., Appellees (Intervening Defendants).
BIG HORN COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. ONE, State of Wyoming, et al., Appellants (Intervening Defendants),
v.
CAMPBELL COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT, State of Wyoming, et al., Appellees (Plaintiffs),
and
Laramie County School District No. One, et al., and Wyoming Education Association, Appellees (Intervening Plaintiffs).
Nos. 94-136 thru 94-140.
Supreme Court of Wyoming.
Nov. 8, 1995.
As Clarified on Denial of Rehearing Dec. 6, 1995.

Page 1243

Ford T. Bussart, Marvin L. Tyler of Bussart, West, Rossetti, Piaia & Tyler, Rock Springs, for Campbell County School District, State of Wyoming, et al.

Joseph B. Meyer, Attorney General, Rowena L. Heckert, Sr. Assistant Attorney General, Cheyenne, for State of Wyoming, Diana J. Ohman, et al.

Timothy J. Kirven of Kirven & Kirven, P.C., Buffalo, Gerald R. Mason of Mason & Graham, P.C., Pinedale, for Big Horn County School District No. One, et al.

Paul J. Hickey, Mark R. Stewart, Richard D. Bush of Hickey & Evans, Cheyenne, for Laramie County School District No. One.

Patrick E. Hacker, Cheyenne, for Wyoming Education Association.

Gerald L. Goulding, Afton, for Lincoln County School District No. Two as amicus curiae.

Dan Pauli of the Legislative Service Office, Cheyenne, for Wyoming Legislature and Management Council as amicus curiae.

Before GOLDEN, C.J., and THOMAS, MACY, TAYLOR and LEHMAN, JJ.

GOLDEN, Chief Justice.

The question before us is the constitutionality of Wyoming's public school finance system. Four Wyoming school districts (Campbell County School District No. One, Uinta County School District No. One, Sweetwater County School Districts Nos. One and Two) brought suit in January 1992, against the State of Wyoming, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, the State Board of Education and others 1 seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against the state by claiming certain components of the Wyoming public school finance system were unconstitutional

Page 1244

under the Equal Protection Section of the Wyoming Constitution (Art. 1, § 34) and the Education Article of the Wyoming Constitution (Art. 7, §§ 1-23). After the state defendants answered with a denial that the identified components of the finance system were constitutionally infirm, a coalition of twenty-three school districts 2 intervened as defendants aligned with the state defendants. Later, Laramie County School District No. One and the Wyoming Education Association intervened as plaintiffs and aligned with the initial challengers of the school finance system. These intervenors identified other components of the school finance system which were allegedly unconstitutional. Thus, as the issues were joined, the challengers attacked five components of the school finance system: the divisor feature, the municipal divisor feature, the recapture feature, the optional mills feature, and the capital construction feature.

Following a three-week trial in October 1993, the District Court, First Judicial District, Laramie County, declared three components of the school finance system--the municipal divisor feature, the recapture feature, and the optional mills feature--unconstitutional. The state defenders have appealed that decision. With respect to the divisor and capital construction features of the school finance system, the district court declared them to be constitutional. The challengers have appealed that decision.

We affirm the district court's decision that the municipal divisor, recapture and optional mills features of the school finance system are unconstitutional. We reverse the district court's decision that the divisor and capital construction features are constitutional. In other words, we hold Wyoming's public school finance system is unconstitutional.

ISSUES

In their various briefs, the parties have stated many issues. We believe those issues may be succinctly summarized as follows:

1. Whether the court's exercise of its judicial power to declare school finance system statutes unconstitutional violates the doctrine of separation of powers?

2. Whether the court must apply a rational basis or strict scrutiny standard of review to determine the constitutionality of the school finance system statutes?

3. Applying the appropriate standard of review to the challenged components of the school finance system, whether these components are constitutional? 3

Page 1245

In addressing these issues, we are cognizant of several factors, including: our prior decision in Washakie County Sch. Dist. No. One v. Herschler, 606 P.2d 310 (Wyo.1980), cert. denied, 449 U.S. 824, 101 S.Ct. 86, 66 L.Ed.2d 28 (1980), in which we declared public education is a fundamental right under our state constitution and struck down the then-existing school finance system under the equal protection provision of our constitution; the post-Washakie reform measures; the workings of the challenged financing system as a whole; the filing of the present action and the procedural manner in which the district court managed this action; the district court's decision; and the language of the education provisions of our constitution

Page 1246

and the education system implemented under those constitutional provisions. Each of these will be considered below.
BACKGROUND

Washakie

Before 1980, local ad valorem taxes generated a substantial portion of the funding to the state's elementary and secondary public schools. Over the years, the development of in-place mineral wealth created disparity in those local resources so great as to engender a challenge to the school finance system. In Washakie, we declared public education a fundamental right under the state constitution and we held the then-existing school finance system unconstitutional because it failed to afford equal protection, in violation of the Wyoming Constitution. In so holding, we isolated no particular statute, but instead examined "the entire system from organization of school districts through tax bases and levies and distribution of foundation funds, all of which have a bearing upon the disparity which exists." Washakie, 606 P.2d at 335.

This court, in Washakie, expressed its understanding "that there are special problems and amounts may be distributed in a mode similar to the foundation fund which takes into consideration various balancing factors." Washakie, 606 P.2d at 336. We remarked that "[a] state formula can be devised which will weight the calculation to compensate for special needs--educational cost differentials," id., and indicated our awareness

that the formula that will provide equality will be quite complex. More money may be needed in one school district to achieve quality education than in another because of, e.g., transportation costs, building maintenance costs, construction costs, logistic considerations, number of pupils with special problems, et cetera. However, it is not a problem that cannot be solved, challenging though it might be.

Id. at 315, n. 3.

This court clearly expressed its view that "until equality of financing is achieved, there is no practicable method of achieving equality of quality." Washakie, 606 P.2d at 334. This equality, we concluded, extends to the financing of physical facilities with which to carry on the process of quality education, which financing we found was "tarred with the same brush of disparate tax resources." Id. at 337. We commented that "statewide availability from total state resources for building construction or contribution to school buildings on a parity for all school districts is required just as for other elements of the educational process." Id.

In Washakie, this court, having examined the "entire system," emphasized the legislature's goal "is to arrive at financial parity." Id. We had confidence the legislature would meet the challenge of fulfilling its constitutional duties to "provide for the establishment and maintenance of a complete and uniform system of public instruction," WYO. CONST. ART. 7, § 1, and "make such further provisions by taxation or otherwise, as with the income arising from the general school fund will create and maintain a thorough and efficient system of public schools, adequate to the proper instruction of all [school age] youth of the state...." WYO. CONST. ART. 7, § 9.

Post-Washakie: School Finance Reform Measures

As explained in Washakie, Wyoming apportions funds to the school districts from the Foundation Program. Several revenue sources either fund the program or reduce the amount of...

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45 practice notes
  • Citizens for Strong Sch., Inc. v. Fla. State Bd. of Educ., No. SC18-67
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • January 4, 2019
    ...See, e.g. , Rose , 790 S.W.2d at 211 ; Davis v. State , 804 N.W.2d 618, 623-24 (S.D. 2011) ; Campbell Cty. Sch. Dist. v. State , 907 P.2d 1238, 1259 (Wyo. 1995). And, while the definitions set forth below could generally apply to any claim brought under article IX, section 1 they are constr......
  • Ex parte James
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • January 10, 1997
    ...606 P.2d 310 (Wyo.), cert. denied, 449 U.S. 824, 101 S.Ct. 86, 66 L.Ed.2d 28 (1980), and Campbell County School Dist. v. State, 907 P.2d 1238 (Wyo.1995). Herschler involved an action commenced by, among others, county school districts, seeking a judgment declaring Wyoming's statutory school......
  • Neeley v. West Orange-Cove, No. 04-1144.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Texas
    • December 16, 2005
    ...this case are appropriate for decision by this court in the exercise of our constitutional role"); Campbell County Sch. Dist. v. State, 907 P.2d 1238, 1264 (Wyo.1995) (rejecting separation of powers argument and stating that "[a]lthough this Court has said the judiciary will not encroach in......
  • William Penn Sch. Dist. v. Pa. Dep't of Educ., No. 46 MAP 2015.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • September 28, 2017
    ...dictionaries to give meaning to terms relative to when they were employed in law, including Campbell County School District v. State, 907 P.2d 1238, 1258 (Wyo. 1995), which used an 1889 dictionary to define, inter alia, "thorough and efficient").58 See Hornbeck, 458 A.2d 758 (implicit findi......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
44 cases
  • Citizens for Strong Sch., Inc. v. Fla. State Bd. of Educ., No. SC18-67
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • January 4, 2019
    ...See, e.g. , Rose , 790 S.W.2d at 211 ; Davis v. State , 804 N.W.2d 618, 623-24 (S.D. 2011) ; Campbell Cty. Sch. Dist. v. State , 907 P.2d 1238, 1259 (Wyo. 1995). And, while the definitions set forth below could generally apply to any claim brought under article IX, section 1 they are constr......
  • Ex parte James
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • January 10, 1997
    ...606 P.2d 310 (Wyo.), cert. denied, 449 U.S. 824, 101 S.Ct. 86, 66 L.Ed.2d 28 (1980), and Campbell County School Dist. v. State, 907 P.2d 1238 (Wyo.1995). Herschler involved an action commenced by, among others, county school districts, seeking a judgment declaring Wyoming's statutory school......
  • Neeley v. West Orange-Cove, No. 04-1144.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Texas
    • December 16, 2005
    ...this case are appropriate for decision by this court in the exercise of our constitutional role"); Campbell County Sch. Dist. v. State, 907 P.2d 1238, 1264 (Wyo.1995) (rejecting separation of powers argument and stating that "[a]lthough this Court has said the judiciary will not encroach in......
  • William Penn Sch. Dist. v. Pa. Dep't of Educ., No. 46 MAP 2015.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • September 28, 2017
    ...dictionaries to give meaning to terms relative to when they were employed in law, including Campbell County School District v. State, 907 P.2d 1238, 1258 (Wyo. 1995), which used an 1889 dictionary to define, inter alia, "thorough and efficient").58 See Hornbeck, 458 A.2d 758 (implicit findi......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • GLIMPSES OF REPRESENTATION-REINFORCEMENT IN STATE COURTS.
    • United States
    • Constitutional Commentary Vol. 36 Nbr. 2, September 2021
    • September 22, 2021
    ...and ordering implementation of a "master pian" to remedy the constitutional defects); Campbell Cnty. Sch. Dist. v. Stale, 907 P.2d 1238 (Wyo. 1995), us clarified on denial ofreh'g, Dec. 6, 1995 (holding that Wyoming's system, which resulted in funding disparities among local districts, fail......

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