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Serrano v. Priest[edit]


Starting in 1971 the Serrano v. Priest court series began, bringing up the issue of inequality in school systems with taxpayer money. John Serrano was a father in California who realized that low-income areas were not receiving the proper funding needed for schools compared to high-income areas. Serrano decided to sue Ivy Baker Priest who at the time was the California State Treasure. This court case began in 1971 but would be apart of a three set series over the next six years. This case was important because it was bringing up discrimination along with the 14th Amendment being broken by the government.

History of the Case

The reason this case gained so much popularity was because schools systems were not being fair with financing poor schools and that discrimination was being shown. California during this time period had a high Latino population (as it still does) and schools were not being equal when it came to funding. John Serrano realized this and decided that different areas needed restriction on how high property taxing could be so all students, no matter their family’s income, would have an equal chance for success. One main point that was brought up was how poor communities “had to have high tax rates to generate relatively low per-pupil revenue, where as wealthy communities could have low rates and yet still generate relatively high pupil revenue” (Knox 4). This didn’t seem fair to Serrano, and the courts agreed. The court ruled that the property taxes should be equalized so the difference is less then $100 per a student so that all students have a fair chance at an equal education. In Serrano II (1976) the same inequality was brought up, but specifically in the San Antonio area. The case was called San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez and had many of the same problems as Serrano I. There was not enough financing in public elementary and secondary schools and there was an inequality in the way the schools were being funded. The difference was though that the Texas system didn’t violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment as the first Serrano case did. The reason being though the taxes were very different there were more opportunities for the low-income areas to gain money, such as fundraising and donations. The state did though decide to increase state funding to help equalize the low-income areas schools and provide more support if needed. Serrano III was not that important to the bigger picture because it dealt mostly with the legal fees but this was also the part where the funding was placed into documents that were to be signed. Serrano I and Serrano II were both passed thought the courts and helped create equality in school funding, but Proposition 13 made this a challenge in both cases. The Proposition was passed in 1978, so didn’t directly affect the case but made it harder for states to ensure the equality in funding was staying true. (will be expanding)

Present Day- This case raised issues such as discrimination and class, but it also showed how education does have limitations. This case was in 1971 but even in 2018 clear signs of discrimination can still be seen. Detroit is a perfect example of this because of the way their schools have been treated and how little teachers get paid there. Schools in Detroit have been run down for years but because of the low funding they receive there isn’t much that can be done. Many argue Detroit schools are so run down because of the racial diversity there. The Serrano v. Priest case opened up people’s minds when it came to equally funding schools, but there is still a way to go before all schools in America can be equal.


California Tax Data. (2007). What is Proposition 13? Retrieved April 27, 2018, from

Cornell Law School. (1992). San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez. Retrieved April 28, 2018, from

Court Listener. (1977, October 4). Serrano v. Priest, 569 P.2d 1303, 20 Cal. 3d 25, 141 Cal. Rptr. 315 – Retrieved April 26, 2018, from

EdSource. (2018). Smarter Balanced Assessments. Retrieved from

Goldstein, S. R. (2013). Interdistrict Inequalities in School financing: A critical analysis of Serrano v. Priest and its progeny. Retrieved April 27, 2018, from

San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez. (n.d.). Oyez. Retrieved May 1, 2018, from

Stanford University. (n.d.). Landmark US Cases Related to Equality of Opportunity in K- 12 Education. Retrieved April 28, 2018, from