Askew v. Hargrave

LOCATION: Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District

DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1970-1971)

CITATION: 401 US 476 (1971)
ARGUED: Feb 23, 1971 / Feb 24, 1971
DECIDED: Mar 08, 1971

Facts of the case


Media for Askew v. Hargrave

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 23, 1971 in Askew v. Hargrave

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 24, 1971 in Askew v. Hargrave

Warren E. Burger:

Mr. Shanks, you may proceed whenever you’re ready.

Hershel Shanks:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

I would like to begin this morning by noting that there are many aspects of the Florida Educational Financing System which are very fine indeed and to the extent that they are good we applaud, but there is one element in this system which discriminates on the basis of wealth and to that extent we attack it is unconstitutional.

Basically, the Florida system is this, the state distributes to each of the counties on a very fair and well considered basis, a major portion of the funds to finance a school system.

Now, I am willing to assume here contrary to present fact that this is sufficient to fund an adequate educational system.

Added to this basic grant and on top of this is the amount that the local counties add through their local tax effort.

Now, I’m even willing to assume here that this added amount is an educational frosting.

Potter Stewart:

An educational what?

Hershel Shanks:

Frosting on the cake Your Honor.

Potter Stewart:


Hershel Shanks:

In other words, its something additional which the -- I don’t think in fact of this but I’m willing to assume that in here.

But we insist that even the frosting be distributed on an equal basis that is without discrimination based on wealth.

The Millage Rollback Act together with the statutes which authorized Florida counties to tax, create a system where they give to each county a certain authority to add this educational frosting, to raise these dollars.

In some counties, it’s $700.00 a pupil.

In other counties, it’s $6.00, $5.00, $4.00 and down to $50.00 a pupil.

Each is treated less well depending as it goes down the wealth scale so that it’s not a question of only two categories, it’s a sliding scale and everybody but the top county is disadvantaged.

Now, we are not opposed to limitations as such on local effort.

We don’t even insist on a particular formula that the limitation should take.

There are variety of constitutional formulas, for example, a Florida could in its wisdom say that each county will be limited to a $100.00 a pupil or could say each county could be -- would be limited to a $1,000.00 in instruction unit of the instruction unit as was discussed yesterday is a very complicated formula which takes into account a myriad of factors, it could take -- if there are infinite number of reasonable formulas for determining instruction units, to take account of any reasonable difference in educational need, transportation, exceptional children, guidance programs, anything so that we wouldn’t object to any limitation which applied without regard to wealth which was reasonably related to the responsibility which each of the local communities has and if they have the same responsibility, it is our position that the state must give them the same tools to meet that responsibility.

Thurgood Marshall:

Did Florida pass a law that says no county can tax for all purposes more than 15 mills?

Hershel Shanks:

That Your Honor would depend on a number of considerations.

Thurgood Marshall:

Well, what exactly?

Is that in the United States constitution?

Hershel Shanks:

It probably would but --

Thurgood Marshall:

Why not?

Hershel Shanks:

-- I can’t be sure -- the considerations would be this Your Honor.

Thurgood Marshall:

What would it violate, Fourteenth Amendment?

Hershel Shanks:

It -- yes, the --

Thurgood Marshall:

It says that all counties are on the same basis that tallies it to what?

Hershel Shanks:

A single tax rate --