Thompson v. Engelking

Decision Date01 May 1975
Docket NumberNo. 11534,11534
Citation537 P.2d 635,96 Idaho 793
PartiesMarba C. THOMPSON, Individually, et al., Plaintiffs and Respondents, v. D. F. ENGELKING, as Superintendent of Public Instruction, et al., Defendants and Appellants.
CourtIdaho Supreme Court

W. Anthony Park, Atty. Gen., James R. Hargis, Deputy Atty. Gen., Boise, for defendants and appellants.

John T. Hawley of Hawley, Troxell, Ennis & Hawley, Boise, for plaintiffs and respondents.

McQUADE, Chief Justice.

In this appeal the Court is asked to determine the constitutionality of Idaho's present public elementary and secondary school financing system. The trial court determined that the present system, with its heavy reliance on the ad valorem property tax, 1 violates Art. 9, Sec. 1, of the Idaho Constitution by failing to provide the requisite 'uniform system of public schools.' The trial court ordered the defendants to restructure the financing system in such a manner as not to violate the constitutional provision. We reverse the judgment of the trial court. We find that the public school financing system of the State of Idaho does not violate Art. 9, Sec. 1, of the Idaho Constitution, nor does it deny plaintiffs-respondents, and those similarily situated, equal protection of the law. Article 9, Section 1, of the Idaho Constitution states:

'The stability of a republican form of government depending mainly upon the intelligence of the people, it shall be the duty of the legislature of Idaho, to establish and maintain a general, uniform and thorough system of public, free common schools.'


This case was brought as a class action in the district court and decided on the basis of briefs, oral argument, and stipulated facts. 2 The trial court found: Plaintiffs Marba C. Thompson and Paul S. Thompson are residents, property owners, and taxpayers within Pocatello School District No. 25; plaintiffs Bradley, Annette, Leslie, Leanne, and Stephen Thompson are all minor children of Paul and Marba Thompson, and reside in and attend the various schools of Pocatello School District No. 25 (during the 1971-72 school year); the plaintiffs in this class action represent themselves and others similarly situated with that class being all children in the State of Idaho who are attending the free public elementary, junior high and high schools in this state, with the exception of those children in that school district, the identity of which is presently unknown, which affords its students, in the view of the trial court, the greatest educational opportunity of all school districts within Idaho; defendants D. F. Engelking, serving as the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, the individual members of the State Board of Education, State Auditor Joe R. Williams, and State Treasurer Marjorie Moon are parties in their official capacities; the County Auditor, Treasurer, and Assessor of Bannock County, Canyon County, Bingham County, Latah County and Ada County, all of which are counties in the State of Idaho, are parties defendant in their official capacities for their respective counties.

The complaint sought a declaratory judgment that (1) the plaintiffs have been denied equal protection of the laws of the United States and of the State of Idaho, and (2) the school financing system of Idaho is void and without force or effect as repugnant to the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States and to the fundamental law and the Constitution of Idaho. The plaintiffs requested that (1) the defendants be ordered to reallocate the funds avaiable for financial support of the school system and (2) that the court retain jurisdiction to afford defendants and the Legislature a reasonable time in which to reallocate those funds and to otherwise restructure the financing system so as to provide 'substantially equal educational opportunities' for all children of the state, as required by the equal protection clauses of the United States and Idaho Constitutiions. The trial court found a justiciable controversy in plaintiffs' allegations and defendants' reply asserting the constitutionality of the financing system.

Based upon the trial court's jurisdictional findings and the findings of fact set out in the following section concerning the exact workings of the funding system, the trial court made the following conclusions of law: The class action was properly brought by the plaintiffs; the above listed defendants are proper parties; the court had jurisdiction over both the subject matter and the parties, and, therefore, had the power to determine the constitutionality of the school financing system of the State of Idaho; the State of Idaho, by and through the defendants has the duty udner the provisions of Art. 9, Sec. 1, of the Idaho Constitution to establish and maintain a general, uniform and thorough system of public, free common schools for all children in the state, including plaintiff children; the state legislature has the plenary power to provide for, regulate, control and alter the public schools of the state to meet the requirements of Art. 9, Sec. 1 (the trial court citing Andrus v. Hill 3); the constitutional mandate to the state to establish and maintain a general, uniform and thorough system of public schools requires that the system provide an equal educational opportunity to all children attending the public schools in the state.

The trial court concluded that there is a significant connection between the sums expended for education and the quality of the educational opportunity; and therefore, a system of school financing which results in disparity of per student expenditures by the various school districts, cannot meet the so-called constitutional mandate of complete equal educational opportunity. Since it concluded that the above denial resulted from the present system of financing, the trial court found that system unconstitutional and allowed the defendants until mjuly 1, 1975, to correct the alleged constitutional deprivations.

Finally, the trial court concluded that the public school financing system does not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution or Art 1, Sec. 2, of the Idaho Constitution. As authority for that conclusion, the lower court cited San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez 4 and Robinson v. Cahill. 5

From these conclusions of law, the appellants make the following assignments of error: the trial court erred in finding that the Idaho Constitution requires equal educational opportunity for all students attending public elementary and secondary schools; the trial court erred when it concluded that a connection exists between education expenditures and the quality of the resulting educational opportunity; the trial court erred in its conclusion that a system of finance in which per pupil expenditures vary directly with the amount and value of taxable property within the school district cannot meet the constitutional mandate when the school districts vary widely in concentration of taxable property; the trial court erred when it concluded that under the existing system of public school financing the education opportunity available to a pupil is materially dependent upon the amount and value of the taxable property within the school district in which the pupil resides, and that the amount and value of such property varies widely among the existing school districts; the trial court erred when it held that the existing financing system does not provide equal educational opportunities to all public school pupils in the state.


Before turning to the substantive issues of this case, it is necessary to first describe the public school financing system of Idaho. Both the appellants and the respondents have noted the clarity of the description of the system incorporated in the trial court's findings of fact. With this we agree, and borrow heavily from those findings.

Approxiamtely 185,700 children attend public elementary and secondary schools in Idaho. The system is composed of 115 school districts. The funds supporting these public elementary and secondary schools in Idaho are derived from five sources, those being state funds, county property tax, local school district property tax, federal funds, and funds received from miscellaneous sources such as activity fees and lunch programs. In the school year 1970-71, the statewide total expenditures from all funds totaled $123 million. The summary, as stipulated, as to source and percentage therefrom was as follows: state fund-36%; county property tax -7%; local school district-40%; federal funds-11%; miscellaneous-6%. 6 The local school districts raise their 40% of the funds through ad valorem taxes levied on the property within their districts. The levies are composed of the General School Levies, Migratory Farm Levy, School Plant Facilities Reserve, School Emergency Fund, Special School Assistance Levy and the Equalization Levy. 7

Primarily, the education funds from the state are distributed through the Foundation Program. 8 This program is essentially a formula established by the Legislature to distribute available funds in an attempt to equalize the amount of money available per pupil 9 in the various school districts, and contains three distribution components which are the Foundation Education Program, the Foundation Transportation Program and the Foundation Exceptional Education Program. State funds for the Foundation Program are derived from state general fund appropriations, endowment fund earinings, and other miscellaneous revenues under the control of the state legislature. 10

The formula under which these funds are distributed to the districts may be summarized as follows: multiply the total weighted average daily attendance of the district 11 by the state average...

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38 cases
  • Serrano v. Priest
    • United States
    • California Supreme Court
    • December 30, 1976
    ...v. Kinnear (1974) 84 Wash.2d 685, 530 P.2d 178, 200--202; Shofstall v. Hollins (1973) 110 Ariz. 88, 515 P.2d 590; Thompson v. Engelking (1975) 96 Idaho 793, 537 P.2d 635; cf. Hootch v. Alaska State-Operated School System (Alaska 1975) 536 P.2d 793, 804; but see Robinson v. Cahill (1973) 62 ......
  • Kukor v. Grover
    • United States
    • Wisconsin Supreme Court
    • February 22, 1989
    ...economic and political policy." McDaniel v. Thomas, 248 Ga. 632, 644, 285 S.E.2d 156, 165 (1981) (quoting Thompson v. Engelking, 96 Idaho 793, 798, 537 P.2d 635, 640 (1975)). Finally, because we find the general equalization formula under ch. 121 to be constitutional under both art. X, sec.......
  • Athanson v. Grasso
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Connecticut
    • March 30, 1976
    ...N.W.2d 457 (1972), vac., 390 Mich. 389, 212 N.W.2d 711 (1973). Similar suits were unsuccessful in several states. Thompson v. Engelking, 96 Idaho 793, 537 P.2d 635 (1975); Shofstall v. Hollins, 110 Ariz. 88, 515 P.2d 590 (1973); Spano v. Board of Education of Lakeland Central School Distric......
  • Pauley v. Kelly
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    • West Virginia Supreme Court
    • February 20, 1979
    ...F.Supp. 327 (N.D.Ill.1968), Aff'd sub nom. McInnis v. Ogelvie, 394 U.S. 322, 89 S.Ct. 1197, 22 L.Ed.2d 308 (1969); Thompson v. Engelking, 96 Idaho 793, 537 P.2d 635 (1975); and Danson v. Casey, 33 Pa.Cmwlth. 614, 382 A.2d 1238 (1978), strike down attacks based on equal protection or due pro......
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3 books & journal articles
  • State courts and school funding: a fifty-state analysis.
    • United States
    • Albany Law Review Vol. 63 No. 4, June 2000
    • June 22, 2000 Sch. Funding, Inc. v. Chiles, 680 So. 2d 400 (Fla. 1996) (S); McDaniel v. Thomas, 285 S.E.2d 156 (Ga. 1981) (S); Thompson v. Engelking, 537 P.2d 635 (Idaho 1975) (S); Committee for Educ. Rights v. Edgar, 672 N.E.2d 1178 (Ill. 1996) (S); Unified Sch. District No. 229 v. State, 885 P.2d 11......
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    • April 1, 2020
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    • Albany Law Review Vol. 61 No. 5, August 1998
    • August 6, 1998
    ...Thomas, 285 S.E.2d 156 (Ga. 1981) (challenging the educational finance system on state equal protection grounds); Thompson v. Engelking, 537 P.2d 635 (Idaho 1975) (challenging financing system as violative of state constitution's education and equal protection articles); Committee for Educ.......

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