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S.C. Lawmakers Ask Court to Rehear Rural School Lawsuit

South Carolina lawmakers and Gov. Nikki Haley have petitioned the state Supreme Court to rehear a lawsuit that accuses the state of inadequately funding rural schools according to an article by The State.

In November, the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled in favor of the 29 rural districts, which filed a lawsuit in 1993 seeking more funding from the state. In the ruling, the court ordered rural districts and the state to work together to improve school facilities, recruit better teachers, and update the state's school funding formula to more equitably distribute funds to poor, rural schools. 

In the petition filed Tuesday, state lawmakers say the court "overlooked recent education initiatives put in place by (Haley's administration) and the General Assembly that will directly affect rural school districts in South Carolina." The petition also refers to the court order as "vague and practically unworkable," and contends that the governor and legislature should have exclusive authority to make such decisions for public schools. 

More than 40 percent of students in South Carolina attend rural schools, according to a report by the Rural School and Community Trust, and those students score lower relative to rural students in nearly every other state on national standardized exams. Nearly 10 percent of rural adults in the state are unemployed, and 56 percent of rural South Carolina students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.

Similar lawsuits have been filed in states like Mississippi and New Jersey. Earlier this month, a New Jersey Superior Court judge ruled against 16 rural districts that were seeking more funding. A hearing is expected in January for a lawsuit that more than 20 districts have joined in Mississippi, which seeks money owed from years of underfunding.  

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