A federal judge yesterday told the Fairfax County School Board to turn to the Virginia Supreme Court if it wants to delay a legal feud with the Justice Department over tuition charges for children of military families stationed at Fort Belvoir.
District Judge Oren R. Lewis refused to order a month's delay sought by the school board, which argued that pending congressional action on proposed cuts in federal impact aid to localities might render the issue moot.
"If you know what Congress is going to do, you're a better man than I am," Lewis told school board attorney Thomas Cawley. Lewis then suggested the board take Justice's claim that the county's tuition plan violates the Virginia Constitution to the state Supreme Court.
That action, Lewis said, would achieve the same postponement the county seeks.
"I'm not going to do your lawyering for you," Lewis told Cawley and Paul Forch of the state Attorney General's office during yesterday's hearing in Alexandria. "I've already given you plenty of hints."
Justice sued Fairfax and Virginia officials in late October, claiming a recently passed state statute empowering county school systems to charge tuition to military families to make up for lost federal aid is illegal. The department brought a similar suit against officials of York County, Va., on Thursday.
Cawley and Forch, who conferred for nearly an hour after yesterday's hearing, said later no decision has been made on whether to take Lewis' advice.
An aide to Rep. Stanford Parris (R-Va.), whose district includes Fort Belvoir, said yesterday it is unclear whether attempts to reconcile House and Senate figures on impact aid appropriations would be completed before Christmas.
Lewis set Dec. 14 for a hearing on a Justice motion, filed Tuesday, that contends the facts in the Fairfax case are undisputed and asks for a finding in its favor without a trial.