Thursday, July 17, 2014
The Oklahoma Board of Education brought suit claiming that the legislative repeal of Common Core in the state violated the Board's constitutional authority over the "supervision of instruction in the public schools." On Tuesday, the state supreme court heard oral arguments in the case. Four hours later, they issued their decision, Pack v. State, remarkable in its brevity. It stated the issue in one sentence, declared jurisdiction over the case in two sentences, and reached its holding in one sentence: "HB 3399 does not violate art. 13, §5 or art. 4, §1 of the Oklahoma Constitution."The court was apparently especially sensistive to the fact that school starts in just a few weeks and this issue should not be left hanging. There is, of course, the danger of sacrificing thoughtfulness and accuracy at the alter of efficiency, but this quick decision begs the question of why some other state courts are so willing to let the quality and financing of educational instruction hang in the balance for years without issuing a definitive ruling. Granted, school finance and quality cases involve far more complex facts, but the potential consitutional violation of students rights demands no less of a sense of urgency. Moreover, the facts in those cases are rarely disputed. Rather, the fight is more often on questions of law and judicial authority.