Supreme Court hears arguments on union fees, public school funding

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] heard oral arguments [transcript, PDF] Wednesday in the consolidated cases Davenport v. Washington Education Association and Washington v. Washington Education Association [Duke Law Backgrounder], 05-1589 and 05-1657 [dockets], where the Court must decide whether a state campaign finance law that prohibits labor unions and their officials from seizing and using the wages of nonmembers for partisan political campaigns without obtaining the nonmembers' affirmative consent violates the First Amendment rights of labor unions. AP reports that Justice Kennedy and "at least five other judges" seemed to agree with Washington that states have wide discretion over how to protect the First Amendment rights of their citizens. After a state trial court ruled that a union had to ask permission of union members to use their dues for political activity under a Washington state law, a state appeals court reversed, saying the statute placed an undue burden on the union's right to free speech, and the Washington Supreme Court [official website] affirmed. AP has more.

Also Wednesday, the Court heard oral arguments [transcript, PDF] in Zuni Public School District No. 89 v. Department of Education [Duke Law case backgrounder], 05-1508 [docket], a case evaluating federal funding for public schools. Three New Mexico school districts allege that the US Department of Education [official website] wrongly uses an equalization public school funding formula distributing federal funds to public school districts equally, instead of an Impact Aid [DOE backgrounder] formula that allocates additional funds for school districts encompassing a significant amount of federal land, such as Indian reservations, that does not generate local tax revenue. The school districts, which have many native American students coming from reservations lands, argue that Congress did not grant the Department of Education authority to use the equalization formula in 1994 public school funding legislation, and that the Impact Aid formula from 1976 legislation remains in tact. The state and the federal government oppose using a different funding formula because it will disturb statewide funding. The US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit [official website] last year favored the federal government. AP has more. The Cibola County Beacon has local coverage.

 

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