From the Schoolhouse to the Courthouse

Former Board of Regents president, DM business tycoon and educational savior Marv Pomerantz is bankrolling a lawsuit against Gov. Chet Culver and Department of Education Director Judy Jeffrey, charging that they’re letting the state’s education system go down the tubes. The suit was filed by three Iowa families.

The DM Register has a detailed account:

The families allege that state officials have allowed the quality of Iowa’s education system to significantly slip, so much so that high school graduates are inadequately prepared for college or the workplace.

“The quiet, ugly truth is that Iowa’s educational system is but a shadow of its glorious past, and our leaders are whistling by its graveyard,” the lawsuit says.

Pomerantz said that over the past 30 years he has lobbied for Iowa’s education system to change. It hasn’t, so Pomerantz said he had no choice but to back the lawsuit that asks the state to adopt measures such as creating a statewide, mandatory curriculum to ensure equal opportunities for all students.

A national expert said similar court cases have taken up to 10 years to resolve, and in most cases the courts are broad in their directives and reluctant to dictate to legislatures or schools specific steps to take. Other states have faced education equity lawsuits that mostly challenge whether schools have adequate resources. The Iowa lawsuit appears to be unique because it challenges programming available to students.

Specifically, the lawsuit asks that Iowa officials implement a challenging statewide curriculum to be used in all public schools and a pay scale for teachers that is based on performance rather than years of experience. It also asks to end disparities among Iowa’s 364 districts.

I have serious doubts that a judge, or even the Iowa Supreme Court, is going to jump in and prescribe specific education proposals.

But courts are unpredictable, and Pomerantz may just be able to buy some change with that big checkbook. Even if he manages simply to re-fire a real reform debate in the Statehouse, good for him.

He’s suing Democrats, but I expect he’ll catch the most hell from all the conservative Republicans who complain incessantly about judges trying to legislate from the bench. That’s basically what Pomerantz is asking them to do.

Yep, I bet they’ll be piling on any minute now. Unless all those dire warnings about  “judicial activism” was political fluff that only applies to rulings or lawsuits they don’t like. Couldn’t be.



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2 responses to “From the Schoolhouse to the Courthouse

  1. Martha Troxel

    Objections to legislating from the bench are not political fluff to me.It is best to leave the legislating to the legislatures who are elected by the citizens of this state.

  2. Brent Oleson

    I am a conservative Republican who thinks this is a bad idea and as you say judicial activism. You don’t get judges to do what you can’t do at the ballot box. Republicans should quit complaining and just win, not try to backdoor their efforts through the courts!

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