some sort of "minimum" or "basic" level of educational opportunities. But the plaintiffs failed to allege that this basic level of educational opportunity had been denied.
In sum, during the 1970s, by means of a variety of theories and demands, several state courts aggressively trod into the school finance fray that the United States Supreme Court declined to enter. The plaintiffs' success in about half of the decided cases created a genuine school finance litigation industry.
From 1980 through 1988, two state high court decisions invalidated their school finance systems,20 while eight upheld systems as constitutional. 21 Plaintiffs in these 10 cases relied almost exclusively on traditional finance equity claims. More or less relying on the Coons team's Proposition I, their evidence and arguments focused primarily on the disparities in resource availability between wealthy and poor school districts that resulted from the systems' reliance on local property tax revenue as a chief source of public school funding.
Judicial restraint and deference to the legislative process—the Rodriguez perspective—characterized most decisions of this decade. When faced with state equal protection clause challenges, most courts took the view that education was not a fundamental right entitled to strict scrutiny under their state constitution (Underwood, 1995). Applying the more deferential rational basis test, those courts upheld their finance systems—and the local control they fostered.
So too, in response to arguments based on education clauses, most courts during this period took a very narrow view of what those provisions required of the state legislatures (Underwood, 1995). Courts often held that the education clauses did not require the state to adopt a particular school funding system, and certainly did not preclude a reliance on locally generated revenue as a source of funding for schools. Moreover, those courts did not view the education clauses as embodying notions of equity, and thus did not view the disparities in the availability of financial resources for schools as a problem of constitutional significance.
In rejecting traditional equity claims, many of the decisions of the 1980s also expressed frustration that plaintiffs did not allege what they considered to be sufficient injury. Several criticized plaintiffs for failing to demonstrate that, merely by having less money spent on them, students in property-poor school districts were denied their constitutional rights.22
Nonetheless, decisions rejecting finance equity claims often left the door open to possible future cases alleging that the state was failing to afford districts sufficient resources to provide students with the basic, minimum, or adequate educational opportunity required by state's education clause (Verstegen, 1995; Enrich, 1995).23 As a result, despite initial school finance litigation failures in Maryland, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, and Wisconsin, plaintiffs in