In San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD) v. Rodriguez, the SAISD argued that the funding structure for elementary and secondary schools in Texas was unconstitutional. Texas allocates state funds to meet a minimum standard for all schools. Individual school districts must rely on local property taxes for the remaining funds they need. The SAISD argued that students attending schools in poor districts are at a disadvantage relative to students from wealthier districts, because the poor communities have a much smaller tax base, and therefore less funding for their schools. The SAISD claimed that this disparity in funding - and, by extension, school quality - violated the 14th Amendment's "equal protection" clause.

In a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court disagreed. In the majority opinion, Justice Powell stated that the state is under no constitutional obligation to fund school districts equally, and that education itself was not a fundamental right described in the federal constitution.

In his dissent, Justice Marshall wrote that "the majority's holding can only be seen as a retreat from our historic commitment to equality of educational opportunity and as unsupportable acquiescence in a system which deprives children in their earliest years of the chance to reach their full potential as citizens."