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The Serrano Documents


Serrano v. Priest, decided by the California Supreme Court (sitting en bane) on August 30, 1971, represents the first successful attack on public state education financing systems in a judicial campaign dating back to 1968.

The first efforts aimed at redesigning the educational fiscal base failed largely because of the adoption in the complaints of a judicially unmanageable standard - that the relief granted should result in spending according to the educational needs of each child. This theory, based on the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, was put forth initially in 1968 in a state court .action filed by the Board of Education of the City of Detroit against the State of Michigan. Although this suit was eventually dropped before any important judicial determinations had been made, other suits embodying the same general equal protection theory were instituted in Virginia, Illinois and other states. The Federal court in Illinois dismissed the suit brought there for lack of "discoverable and manageable standards," and the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed (with one dissent) without argument or opinion. The dismissal of the Virginia case was similarly affirmed at the High Court's next term, this time with two dissents.

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