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Lawsuit On Idaho’s Education Funding Gets Whittled Down

Adam Cotterell
Boise State Public Radio

What had been a sweeping lawsuit against Idaho over the constitutionality of its support for public schools is now much smaller.

A judge has ruled that retired educator Russell Joki and a group of parents cannot sue every school district in the state over charging fees for things like science classes or school registration.

District judge Richard Greenwood says Joki can only sue the Meridian School District where he paid his grandchildren's fees.  Joki says charging fees for classes violates Idaho’s constitutional requirement for free and uniform education.

Greenwood also denied the case class action status that would have allowed parents around the state to join in. He said parents could sue schools on their own to get fees returned.

“A school patron is free to sue in small claims for a modest fee. The nature of the claim is not beyond the ken of the local magistrate judges,” Greenwood wrote.

Joki calls that nonsensical.

“The principle is a constitutional question about a free public education,” Joki says. “A magistrate in a small claims court isn’t going to make a difference on the larger constitutional question. That’s what the district court should have done and that’s what the Idaho Supreme Court should do as well.”

The judge had already dismissed a second part of Joki’s suit. It named Idaho’s legislature and other elected officials and claimed that the state was not funding education the way the constitution requires. Joki will pursue the case against Meridian. He hopes a victory there would set a precedent that will help stop fees altogether and draw attention to the larger funding issue.

Copyright 2013 Boise State Public Radio

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