A Texas district court in Austin ruled Monday that the state school funding system is inadequate, inequitable, and unconstitutional. The litigation began when more than 600 school districts, including the Fort Worth Independent School District and several other major North Texas school districts, filed a total of six lawsuits after the Texas Legislature cut $5.5 billion in education funding in 2011.
After hearing 44 days of testimony, the district judge ruled that the school funding system violates several provisions of the Texas Constitution. Specifically he ruled that the school funding system; (1) fails to provide school districts with substantially equal access to the revenues necessary to educate students; (2) fails to adequately provide for the maintenance and operation of public schools; (3) arbitrarily funds school districts at different levels; and (4) essentially creates an unconstitutional state ad valorem tax because districts have been forced to increase taxes at the local level in order to meet state standards, and thus, no longer have meaningful discretion in setting their local tax rates.
School districts across the state cheered the ruling as a victory for all public school children, but some state officials expressed disappointment with the ruling and indicated that the decision would be appealed immediately. Though school districts hope that the Texas Legislature, which is currently in session, will take action to correct the funding discrepancies, many expect that no action will be taken until after a final decision is rendered by the Texas Supreme Court.
You can read the Star-Telegram’s coverage of the ruling here, and the district judge’s ruling here.