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Zuni Public School District v. U.S. Department of Education

Docket No.: 05-1508
Certiorari Granted: Sep 26 2006
Argued: January 10, 2007
Decided: April 17, 2007


Clean Air Act, EPA, Natural Resources, patent, public education

PartyNames: Zuni Public School District No. 89, et al. v. Department of Education, et al.
Petitioner: Zuni Public School District No. 89, et al.
Respondent: U.S. Department of Education, et al.

Court Below: United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

Zuni Public School District No. 89, et al.
U.S. Department of Education, et al.
550 U.S. 81 (2007)

The Federal Impact Aid Program, 20 U.S.C. § 7709, was enacted to subsidize local State school districts which have a federal presence within the district such as military bases or, as in the present case, Indian Reservations. These local districts are not able to tax such federally impacted lands. The Impact Aid Program prohibits the State from counting these federal subsidies as part of an impacted district's budget when the State allocates operational funds to the local districts, unless the State's operational funding to districts throughout the State is "equalized" under an equalization formula under the Impact Aid Program. If the State's operational funding is determined to be "equalized," the State can reduce operational funding to an impacted district by the amount of the Impact Aid subsidy In 1994, the equalization formula was statutorily created and effectively repealed the equalization formula previously created by the Secretary of the United States Department of Education by regulation. However, in 1996, the Secretary, by regulation, reinstated his repealed and conflicting equalization formula and refuses to follow Congress' equalization formula. Under Congress' formula, New Mexico is not "equalized" and the intended beneficiaries receive the Impact Aid. Under the Secretary's formula, New Mexico is deemed "equalized" and the Impact Aid is taken from the impacted districts. The impacted districts are losing approximately §50,000,000 per year in Impact Aid. The Tenth Circuit was split 6 to 6 on the question, leaving the Secretary's formula in effect.

Question Presented:

The question presented is: 1. Whether the Secretary has the authority to create and impose his formula over the one prescribed by Congress and through this process certify New Mexico's operational funding for fiscal year 1999- 2000 as "equalized," thereby diverting the Impact Aid subsidies to the State and whether this is one of the rare cases where this Court should exercise its supervisory jurisdiction to correct a plain error that affects all State school districts that educate federally connected children.


Was the Secretary of Education's regulatory formula for determining whether a state's education funding is equalized among its school districts consistent with 20 U.S.C. Section 7709, the Federal Impact Aid Program?

Holding: affirmed
Vote: 5-4
Opinion By:

Read opinion

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