State Loses Its Appeal on Assessment Law Suit
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On Tuesday November 17th the Missouri Court of Appeals – Western District entered its opinion and judgment in Sauer v. Nixon. The court ruled against the appellant, the state.
This case, filed on behalf of taxpayers Fred Sauer, Anne Gassel and Gretchen Logue, asserted that the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortia (SBAC) was an illegal interstate compact which had not received the constitutionally required Congressional approval. As such, the taxpayer suit called on the state to terminate its payments for membership and licensing fees to SBAC. Judge Green of Cole County ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in February. The state appealed the decision. Its appeal was heard on October 16, 2015.
At the appeal, counsel for the plaintiffs, John Sauer, asked the court to declare the case moot as several events had take place since the original ruling that made an appeal impractical. First, the Missouri legislature passed HB002, the annual budget bill with a stipulation in the section that appropriated monies for the development of a Missouri-based Statewide Assessment plan that, “no funds from this section shall be used for license fees or membership dues for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.” Since the legislature denied future funding for SBAC membership, should the state have won its appeal, it still would not have had money to pay SBAC.
Second, in July 2015, the Assistant Commissioner of DESE’s Office of College and Career Readiness notified SBAC that “Missouri will not continue as a licensee of materials for the 2015-2016 school year” because of their lack of appropriations. The plaintiffs claimed that these two actions made the state’s appeal moot.
The Court held that the case is moot, and it denied the State’s request to vacate Judge Green’s injunction against payment of money to SBAC. This will relieve the plaintiff’s need to refile the suit in the extremely unlikely event that a future legislature would approve money without a prohibition against making payments to SBAC or any other illegally constituted interstate compact established to create standardized academic tests.
Here is the court’s ruling in its entirety.
This is good news for the other states who are currently pursuing similar litigation.