Aguilar v. Felton

LOCATION: United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, Greensboro Division

DOCKET NO.: 84-237
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

CITATION: 473 US 402 (1985)
ARGUED: Dec 05, 1984
DECIDED: Jul 01, 1985

Rex E. Lee - Argued the cause for the appellants
Stanley Geller - Argued the cause for the appellees

Facts of the case

Part of Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 authorized local institutions to receive funds to assist educationally deprived children from low-income families. Since 1966, New York City had used portions of its Title I funding to pay salaries of employees who teach in parochial schools.


Did New York City's decision to use Title I funds to pay salaries of parochial school teachers violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment?

Media for Aguilar v. Felton

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 05, 1984 in Aguilar v. Felton

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear arguments next in Aguilar against Felton and consolidated cases.

Mr. Solicitor General, I think you may rest.

I think you may proceed whenever you are ready, Mr. Solicitor General.

Rex E. Lee:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court, at issue in this case is the constitutionality of a key feature of Title 1 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.

Over the 19 years of its existence, Title 1 has been universally recognized and hailed as the largest and most successful federal educational effort.

The Congressional objective was to break the poverty cycle at its most vulnerable point by providing supplemental remedial educational services, such as remedial reading and remedial math, to children who meet two qualifications.

The first is educational deprivation, which means performance at a level below normal for their age, and the second is residence in an area that has a high concentration of families with incomes below the poverty level.

Pursuant to Department of Education regulations, Title 1 programs are administered by local public school boards denominated by the regulations as local education agencies.

One thing that is not at issue in this case is that Title 1 is a program that works.

Everyone agrees that children at all levels have experienced significant measurable advances thanks to the benefits of this program.

The Court of Appeals which held it unconstitutional described it as a program that apparently has done so much good and little, if any, detectable harm, and the appellees agree, having acknowledged it as a good and successful program that has contributed substantially to the educational needs of educationally deprived children.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

General Lee, these programs are offered nationwide.

Are there some around the country that are not offered on the premises of the private schools?

And would you be able to characterize the extent to which other programs under Title 1 are offered within public schools?

Rex E. Lee:

Those that have had experience with Title 1, Justice O'Connor, have almost universally come to the conclusion that off premises just doesn't work, that it is educationally unsound.

I am informed by my colleagues at the Department of Education that there is one special circumstance in one school district that has been able to make it work because of special circumstances.

The Department of--

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Is there then only one school district in the nation that is offering it?

Rex E. Lee:

--I am not certain that that is the case.

I am only aware of one where it in fact has been able to work.

Now, I should add this, that in a study done by the Department of Education in the State of Missouri, and this quote is in the brief, and of course the study itself is in the record, the Department of Education based on that study raised the question whether off premises Title 1 services could ever really be comparable as Congress declared that it should be.

And the facts of this case demonstrate why that is a problem.

There are theoretically four possible time and place combinations available to any local education agency that is charged with the responsibility of seeing to it that Title 1 programs offered to nonpublic schools are comparable to the programs that are available to public school children.

Those four combinations are off premises during the regular school hours, off premises after hours or before hours, on premises during the regular school hours, and on premises after hours.

During the 1965-66 school year, the New York City Board of Education explored all three of the other alternatives before settling on the one at issue in this case as the only one that was educationally sound.

Its experience with the two after hours options demonstrated them both to be what the board described as a total failure.

The students were tired.

The parents were concerned about safety.

There was something of a stigma effect because the students, many of them concluded that they were being punished because they were required to stay after school, and communication between Title 1 teachers and the regular classroom teachers was virtually impossible.

We turn now to the off premises options, which is more directly responsive to your question.