Appellees brought this suit in federal court challenging
Florida's Millage Rollback Law as violative of the Equal Protection
Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment on the ground that it had an
invidiously discriminatory effect in its distribution of taxing
authority for educational purposes by a standard related solely to
a county's wealth. Appellants contended that the statute was only
part of a total plan more nearly to equalize school children's
educational opportunities on a state-wide basis. A three-judge
District Court granted appellees' motion for summary judgment on
the basis of the pleadings and appellees' affidavit, having
rejected appellants' argument that the District Court should
abstain from considering the case because of an intervening state
court proceeding attacking the law on state constitutional
1. The District Court mistakenly relied upon Monroe v.
Pape, 365 U. S. 167
McNeese v. Board of Education, 373 U.
, in refusing to abstain from deciding the case on
the merits pending resolution by the state courts of state
constitutional claims, the sustainment of which would obviate the
need for determining the Fourteenth Amendment issue. Reetz v.
Bozanich, 397 U. S. 82
, is an
example of the line of decisions that should inform the discretion
of the District Court in determining whether to abstain.
2. Since the manner in which Florida's overall program operates
may be critical in resolving the equal protection claim, that claim
should be decided not by summary judgment, but after a full
, vacated and remanded.
Page 401 U. S. 477
In 1968, Florida enacted a new law for the financing of public
education through state appropriations and local ad
taxes assessed by each school district. A section of
the new law, Fla.Stat.Ann. § 236.251 (Supp. 1970), known as the
"Millage Rollback Law," provided that, to be eligible to receive
state moneys, a local school district must limit ad
taxes for school purposes to not more than 10 mills of
assessed valuation, with certain exceptions. Appellees filed this
class action in the District Court for the Middle District of
Florida alleging that the Millage Rollback Law effected an
invidious discrimination, in violation of the Equal Protection
Clause, against school children of property-poor counties in that
10 mills of ad valorem
tax in school districts in such
counties would produce less dollars per child for educational
purposes than would 10 mills of ad valorem
tax in other
counties. A three-judge District Court entered a summary judgment
in appellees' favor upon a declaration that the Millage Rollback
Law was unconstitutional, and enjoined the appellants from
withholding state funds from any school district by virtue of the
provisions of that Act. Hargrave v. Kirk, 313 F.
(1970). We noted probable jurisdiction. 400 U.S. 900
(1970). We vacate and remand.
Subsequent to the filing of this suit, School Board of
Broward County v. Christian,
No. 69-932, was filed in the
Circuit Court of the Second Judicial Circuit of Leon County,
Florida. That action attacks the Millage Rollback Law primarily on
state law grounds, as violative of
Page 401 U. S. 478
provisions of the Florida Constitution. The District Court,
however, rejected appellants' argument that the court "should
abstain from considering the case in deference to [the] state court
proceeding," 313 F. Supp. at 946-947, holding that, under
Monroe v. Pape, 365 U. S. 167
(1961), and McNeese v. Board of Education, 373 U.
(1963), "[t]he fact that a state remedy is
available is not a valid basis for federal court abstention." 313
F. Supp. at 947. The reliance upon Monroe v. Pape
was misplaced. Monroe v. Pape
is not in
point, for there, "the state remedy, though adequate in theory, was
not available in practice." 365 U.S. at 365 U. S. 174
held that "assertion of a federal claim in a
federal court [need not] await an attempt to vindicate the same
in a state court." 373 U.S. at 373 U. S. 672
(emphasis added). See also Wisconsin v. Constantineau,
400 U. S. 433
(1971). Our understanding from the colloquy on oral argument with
counsel for the parties is that the Christian case asserts not the
"same claim," that is, the federal claim of alleged denial of the
federal right of equal protection, but primarily state law claims
under the Florida Constitution, which claims, if sustained, will
obviate the necessity of determining the Fourteenth Amendment
question. In such case, the line of decisions of which Reetz v.
Bozanich, 397 U. S. 82
(1970), is a recent example states the principles that should
inform the exercise of the District Court's discretion as to
whether to abstain.
Since the case must be remanded, we add another comment. The
appellees' motion for summary judgment was considered on the
pleadings and an affidavit which essentially merely verified the
allegations of the amended complaint. Our examination of the
pleadings and the affidavit persuades us that they are inadequate
as a basis for deciding the equal protection claim. They do
Page 401 U. S. 479
not sufficiently present the facts related to appellants'
argument that the Millage Rollback Law was only one aspect of a
comprehensive legislative program for reorganizing educational
financing throughout the State to more nearly equalize educational
opportunities for all the school children of the State. Appellants
contend that this program enacted a formula calling for "a massive
infusion of state money into the several school districts," which
more than made up the loss suffered by a school district under the
limitation of 10 mills in the assessment of ad valorem
"The net effect of the 1968 educational financing enactments was
not only to make up for the loss of funds suffered by the counties
required to reduce local millage, but to greatly increase the
moneys available to the counties on a per-pupil basis."
Appellants' Reply Brief 4. Since the manner in which the program
operates may be critical in the decision of the equal protection
claim, that claim should not be decided without fully developing
the factual record at a hearing.
The judgment of the District Court is vacated, and the case is
remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
It is so ordered.
MR. JUSTICE BLACK concurs in the judgment and Part II of the