Hornbeck v. Somerset County Bd. of Educ., No. 93

CourtCourt of Appeals of Maryland
Writing for the CourtArgued before MURPHY; MURPHY; The trial before Judge David Ross consumed over four months and produced a voluminous record, numbering many thousands of pages. Believing that the decisive issue in the case rested upon virtually undisputed facts; Final
Citation458 A.2d 758,295 Md. 597
Docket NumberNo. 93
Decision Date05 April 1983
Parties, 10 Ed. Law Rep. 592 David W. HORNBECK et al. v. SOMERSET COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION et al.

Page 597

295 Md. 597
458 A.2d 758, 10 Ed. Law Rep. 592
David W. HORNBECK et al.
v.
SOMERSET COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION et al.
No. 93.
Court of Appeals of Maryland.
April 5, 1983.

[458 A.2d 761]

Page 602

George A. Nilson, Sp. Asst. Atty. Gen. and Shale D. Stiller, Baltimore (Stephen H. Sachs, Atty. Gen., Ellen M. Heller, Asst. Atty. Gen., Jay I. Morstein, James S. Jacobs, Julien A. Hecht, William L. Reynolds and Frank, Bernstein, Conaway & Goldman, Baltimore, Paul A. McGuckian, County Atty., Rockville, on the brief), for appellants/cross-appellees.

Richard W. Emory, Baltimore, Elliott C. Lichtman, Washington, D.C. (Nell B. Strachan and Venable, Baetjer & Howard, Baltimore, Joseph L. Rauh, Jr., John Silard, Mary M. Levy, James C. Turner and Raugh, Silard & Lichtman, P.C., Benjamin L. Brown, City Sol., Valentine A. Kogler, Jr., Asst. City Sol., Baltimore, Tony Bruce and Jones & Jones, Princess Anne, and Starke Evans, Federalsburg, on the brief), for appellees/cross-appellants.

Andrew Lee Havis, Silver Spring, amicus curiae.

Paul M. Nussbaum and John R. Barr, Mount Rainier, for amicus curiae Bd. of Educ. of Prince George's County.

Thomas J. Wohlgemuth, Annapolis, for amicus curiae Bd. of Educ. of Anne Arundel County.

Charles A. Reese and Judith S. Bresler, Elliott City, for amicus curiae Boards of Educ. of Howard and Montgomery Counties.

Richard R. Bloxom, Pocomoke City, for amicus curiae Bd. of Educ. of Worcester County.

Thomas A. Rymer, Prince Frederick, for amicus curiae Bd. of Educ. of Calvert County.

Ernest Thompson and Lynn Leonhardt, Easton, for amicus curiae Bd. of Educ. of Talbot County.

Melvin J. Sykes, Baltimore, for amicus curiae Women Voters of Maryland, Inc.

Page 603

Michael W. Lower and Smith, Somerville & Case, Baltimore, for amicus curiae Greater Baltimore Committee, Inc.

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Argued before MURPHY, C.J., SMITH, COLE, DAVIDSON and COUCH, JJ., and

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CHARLES E. ORTH, Jr.

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and J. DUDLEY DIGGES * (Retired),

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Specially Assigned Judges.

MURPHY, Chief Judge.

This case involves a challenge to the constitutionality of Maryland statutes which govern the system of financing public elementary and secondary schools in the State's twenty-four school districts, i.e., in the twenty-three counties of Maryland and in Baltimore City. The litigation focuses upon the existence of wide disparities in taxable wealth among the various school districts, and the effect of those differences [458 A.2d 762] upon the fiscal capacity of the poorer districts to provide their students with educational offerings and resources comparable to those of the more affluent school districts.

I

Maryland's public school system is administered pursuant to the provisions of the Education Article of the Maryland Code (1978). The State Board of Education, as head of the State Department of Education, is entrusted with the general care and supervision of the public elementary and secondary schools of the State; it is empowered to determine and carry out the State's public school policies and to adopt bylaws, rules and regulations for the administration of the system. Subject to the general authority of the State Board, the State Superintendent of Schools is responsible for the administration of the Department. A county Board of Education in each county and a Board of School Commissioners in Baltimore City, together with their local school superintendents, are vested with control over educational matters in their respective school districts. Subject to applicable bylaws, rules and regulations of the State Board, the local authorities are empowered to determine the educational policies within their own school districts.

Page 604

The State's public school system is primarily financed by a combination of State and local tax revenues. 1 Section 5-201 of the Education Article provides (with certain exceptions) that all State funds appropriated by the General Assembly to aid in support of the public schools shall be included within the General State School Fund. Section 5-201(c) directs payment of monies from the State School Fund for a number of specified public school expenses, including in subparagraph (12), the State share of "basic current expenses," a term defined in § 5-202(a)(3) to mean (with designated exceptions) "the expenditures made by a county from State and county revenue for public elementary and secondary education." Section 5-202(b)(1) provides that each school district shall receive from the State an amount for each school year representing the "State share of basic current expenses." Section 5-202(b)(2) provides that the annual expenditure for "basic current expenses" in which the State will share is $690 (the statutorily prescribed "foundation" amount at the time suit was filed in this case) multiplied by the number of students enrolled. Section 5-202(b)(3) specifies that to be eligible to receive the State share of basic current expenses, the subdivision's governing body "shall levy an annual tax sufficient to provide an amount of revenue for elementary and secondary public education purposes equal to the product of the wealth of the county and a uniform percentage determined for each fiscal year." (Emphasis added.) 2 Section 5-202(b)(4) provides that the State share of basic current expenses for each school district "is the difference between the county share calculated under paragraph (3) of this subsection and the basic current expense to be shared [$690], as indicated in paragraph (2) of this subsection." Section 5-202(a)(7) defines a subdivision's "wealth" to mean the sum of the assessed valuation of real property, public utility operating property, and net taxable income.

Page 605

The present financing formula for "basic current expenses," as provided in § 5-202(b), is popularly known as the Lee-Maurer formula, after its originators, then Lieutenant Governor Blair Lee and Delegate Lucille Maurer. The formula is intended to "equalize" for differences in local wealth by [458 A.2d 763] providing a larger amount of basic current expense aid to school districts with lesser wealth per pupil than to those with greater wealth. In operation, the formula works as follows: It sets a per pupil statutory "foundation" level ($690) which is the minimal base amount that each school district must spend annually per pupil. Of this amount the State pays 55 percent of the first $624 and 50 percent of the remaining $66. The local districts as a group pay the remaining 45 percent of $624, and 50 percent of $66. The actual distribution of the State share among local districts and the percentage of the foundation amount that each must provide from local tax revenues varies in accordance with the district's "wealth" as defined by § 5-202(a)(7). The amount that each local district contributes is computed as follows: The total number of public school students enrolled in the State is multiplied by $624, and the product of that calculation by 0.45, yielding the first-tier share for all school districts. The total number of students is then multiplied by $66, and that product is multiplied by 0.50, yielding the local districts' second-tier share. The sum of the two--the total contribution of all 24 districts--is then divided by the total wealth of all 24 districts. The resulting percentage is a "uniform tax rate" to be applied by each district to raise its share of the $690 per pupil expenditure. The tax rate applied to each district's wealth per pupil yields the amount per pupil it must contribute toward the basic current expense of $690; the State pays the balance. Thus, the greater a district's wealth the more the uniform tax rate will raise, and the smaller the State's per pupil contribution; conversely,

Page 606

the less its wealth, the less the uniform rate will yield, and the larger the State's contribution. Each district's share is only the minimum mandated by the State, and each expends considerably more per pupil than the foundation amount. These additional expenditures by the local districts may be made without limitation as to amount without affecting the level of State aid received under the formula.

In addition to the State share of basic current expenses under § 5-202(b), the State provides an amount equivalent to $100 per student to a school district having a population density of over 8,000 persons per square mile ("density aid"), a criterion met only by Baltimore City. Two-thirds of this amount must be used for certain programs for students with special educational needs that have resulted from educationally or environmentally disadvantaged environments. § 5-202(c). This subsection also authorizes a State expenditure of $45 per student to qualifying school districts for the same purpose where eligibility for funds is established under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. Other State aid is specially "targeted" to the twelve poorest school districts in the State for use in operating their local systems.

In addition to these appropriations from the State School Fund, the State provides substantially full funding for "categorical aid" to school districts (without adjustment for subdivision wealth) for various educational purposes, including payments for teachers' retirement and social security, educating handicapped children, vocational education and rehabilitation, student transportation costs, school construction costs, and other programs. § 5-201(c) et seq.

The State share of basic current expenses in fiscal year 1980 amounted to $331,880,120, or 54 percent of the total; the local school districts appropriated $283,281,866, or 46 percent of the total basic current expenses for the 1980 fiscal year. State "categorical aid" to the school districts in the 1980 fiscal year amounted to $480,000,000 and density, compensatory and targeted aid amounted to $26,000,000.

Page 607

In addition to these educational expenditures, each local subdivision spends...

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92 practice notes
  • Ex parte James
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • January 10, 1997
    ...in Idaho Schools for Equal Educational Opportunity v. Evans, 123 Idaho 573, 850 P.2d 724 (1993); Hornbeck v. Somerset County Bd. of Educ., 295 Md. 597, 458 A.2d 758 (1983) (concluding that the state constitutional requirements for a "thorough and efficient" system of education did not requi......
  • Donlon v. Montgomery Cnty. Pub. Sch., No. 68
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • July 12, 2018
    ...3-108). The county school systems are funded in part by the State and in part by the counties. Hornbeck v. Somerset C[nty]. Bd. of Educ., 295 Md. 597, 458 A.2d 758 (1983). Although in terms of their composition, jurisdiction, funding, and focus, they clearly have a local flavor, the county ......
  • DeRolph v. State, No. 95-2066
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Ohio
    • March 24, 1997
    ..."Thorough and Efficient Education" Clause (1991), 21 Seton Hall L.Rev. 445, 480. See, also, Hornbeck v. Somerset Cty. Bd. of Edn. (1983), 295 Md. 597, 632-639, 458 A.2d 758, 777-780 (collecting cases, and determining, at 632, 458 A.2d at 776, that "[t]o conclude that a 'thorough and efficie......
  • 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
    ...to the history of their own constitutions, have taken the most sensible approach. See, e.g., Hornbeck v. Somerset Cnty. Bd. of Ed. , 295 Md. 597, 458 A.2d 758, 770–81 (1983). Because their histories are not ours, only their analytic approach is relevant at this juncture. The results of such......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
92 cases
  • Ex parte James
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • January 10, 1997
    ...in Idaho Schools for Equal Educational Opportunity v. Evans, 123 Idaho 573, 850 P.2d 724 (1993); Hornbeck v. Somerset County Bd. of Educ., 295 Md. 597, 458 A.2d 758 (1983) (concluding that the state constitutional requirements for a "thorough and efficient" system of education did not requi......
  • Donlon v. Montgomery Cnty. Pub. Sch., No. 68
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • July 12, 2018
    ...3-108). The county school systems are funded in part by the State and in part by the counties. Hornbeck v. Somerset C[nty]. Bd. of Educ., 295 Md. 597, 458 A.2d 758 (1983). Although in terms of their composition, jurisdiction, funding, and focus, they clearly have a local flavor, the county ......
  • DeRolph v. State, No. 95-2066
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Ohio
    • March 24, 1997
    ..."Thorough and Efficient Education" Clause (1991), 21 Seton Hall L.Rev. 445, 480. See, also, Hornbeck v. Somerset Cty. Bd. of Edn. (1983), 295 Md. 597, 632-639, 458 A.2d 758, 777-780 (collecting cases, and determining, at 632, 458 A.2d at 776, that "[t]o conclude that a 'thorough and efficie......
  • 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
    ...to the history of their own constitutions, have taken the most sensible approach. See, e.g., Hornbeck v. Somerset Cnty. Bd. of Ed. , 295 Md. 597, 458 A.2d 758, 770–81 (1983). Because their histories are not ours, only their analytic approach is relevant at this juncture. The results of such......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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