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School Finance Update
Article By: by Texas State Rep. Larry Phillips
Posted: 11/27/2013 Views: 3464  Impressions: 10726
Categories: Education, Financial, Politics

Following the 2011 Legislative Session, several groups filed suit against the state, claiming that the way in which the state funds public education violates the Texas Constitution. The groups include school districts, the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), business associations, and parents on behalf of their children. The Texas Constitution requires the state to provide efficient and adequate funding for public schools, and that school districts must have meaningful discretion to choose how they spend money they bring in from property taxes.
Speaking broadly, the lawsuits contend that the state does not fund education adequately, and that the school districts have no choice but to raise local property taxes. The groups argue that because the rate at which school districts can tax property is capped, and that a majority of the school districts tax at the maximum rate, the result is effectively a state-wide property tax. The Texas Constitution expressly prohibits a state-wide property tax. Each group has particular claims regarding the current school funding system that differ slightly from one another, but the cases have been consolidated and are now moving forward as one case. Notably, one group asks the court to consider the efficiency of the school funding system in addition to its adequacy.
In the fall of 2012, the case went to trial before Judge John Dietz, who presides over the 250th District Court for the State of Texas. Judge Dietz has also presided over previous school finance litigation. In February of 2013, Judge Dietz issued a preliminary decision that the school finance system was in violation of the Texas Constitution. However, because the legislature was in session at the time, he did not issue a final decision. During the 2013 legislative session, the legislature restored some funding to public education, and reduced the number of required student assessments. In light of these changes, Judge Dietz ordered that the case be reopened, and that testimony regarding the impact of the changes made by the legislature be presented before the court in January, 2014. It is anticipated that regardless of the judge's final decision, the case will be appealed to the Texas Supreme Court.
If you have any questions regarding this or any matter of state government, please contact me by writing to P.O. Box 2910, Austin, TX 78768-2910 or by e-mailing me at

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