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Dreikausen v. Zoning Bd. of Appeals of City of Long Beach

Citation: 32 ELR 20763
No. No. 73, 98 N.Y.2d 165/(N.Y., 06/03/2002)

The court upholds a district court decision dismissing school districts and parents' action against the Washington state treasurer and superintendent of education to stop the state from reducing the school districts' state-mandated aid by the amount of federal forest funds it receives. Under 16 U.S.C. §500, the federal government pays states, such as Washington, 25% of all moneys received from national forests within their borders to be spent as the state legislature prescribes for the benefit of public schools and public roads of counties in which a national forest is situated. Washington distributed these funds to forest land counties, but decided that forest land counties must disburse one-half of the money directly to school districts. The state then credited theamount of that disbursement toward the amount of state-mandated aid that would otherwise be paid to the school districts. Parents of children who attend the public schools in a forest land county and a number of school districts filed suit seeking to restrain the state treasurer and superintendent of education from reducing the districts' state-mandated aid in this way. They sought an order requiring them instead to pay school districts in forest land counties their full allocation of forest funds and their full state-mandated aid. The court first holds that the school districts lacked standing. School districts are a political subdivision of the state, and political subdivisions of a state may not challenge the validity of a state statute in federal court. The court then holds that §500 does not constrain how the state allocates its own money, or how school districts spend theirs. While the parents, on behalf of their children, have sufficiently shown injury-in-fact, their ability to redress concerns about their children's education through the requested relief is problematic because the connection between §500 and the quality of education delivered by any particular district is attenuated. Nevertheless, §500 allows the Washington Legislature to decide how to spend federal forest funds for the benefit of public schools or roads in forest land counties, and its decision to apportion some of those funds directly to school districts in forest land counties comports with §500.

The full text of this decision is available from ELR (16 pp., ELR Order No. L-530).

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Jeffrey L. Fisher
Davis, Wright & Tremaine
1501 4th Ave., Seattle WA 98101
(206) 622-3150

Counsel for Defendants
David A. Stolier, Ass't Attorney General
Attorney General's Office
1125 Washington St. SE, Olympia WA 98504
(360) 753-6200