Judge wants ‘further education’ in school funding lawsuit

A Nashville judge has delayed ruling on preliminary motions in a lawsuit filed by seven Southeast Tennessee school systems over education funding, reports the Times-Free Press.

Chancellor Claudia C. Bonnyman said she is declining to decide whether the lawsuit “should proceed as a class action at this time” because she will first need to address Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit in its entirety.

The chancellor’s action comes after both sides on Wednesday presented arguments to her in court on the seven school districts’ request for class-action status.

“The Court is interested in further education,” Bonnyman wrote in her order, saying she wants to know “if class-action status has been granted or denied in other state or federal school funding cases and if so, what issues were considered? Does the complexity of education law in this state weigh in favor of a class action or against it? Are class actions the preferred model for litigation between public entities or should the Court rely upon the intervention process?”

At that hearing, she said she would first rule on the state’s pending motion to dismiss the lawsuit in its entirety. State attorneys asked for a delay on their dismissal motion, citing complications created by the filing of a second lawsuit against the state this week by Shelby County, the state’s largest school system.

If class-action certification is approved by Bonnyman in the first lawsuit filed by Hamilton and others system, it would allow any of Tennessee’s other 136 school districts to join their lawsuit…. Bonnyman said the “silence from other Tennessee school boards is concerning.”