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Judge: Texas School Finance Is Unconstitutional
A district court judge has ruled that the tax system Texas uses to finance public schools is unconstitutional.
Judge John Dietz ruled in favor of more than 600 school districts responsible for educating three-quarters of the state's 5 million-plus public school students.
After a trial that took more than three months, Dietz determined the Legislature has not adequately funded schools as required under the Texas Constitution.
Dietz ruled from the bench and is expected to provide a detailed opinion later. The attorney general's office is expected to appeal the case to the Texas Supreme Court.
This trial had actually been in the making since 2011 when the last legislature cut $5.4 billion from the state education budget. The state says it acted to provide an adequate education while protecting the taxpayer, but the schools say they were forced to lay-off nearly 12,000 teachers statewide while they added close to 45,000 new students.
More than 600 Texas public school districts sued the state saying the current school funding system was unfair, especially to poor kids. David Hinojosa with MALDEF says, “For those students who are held to the very same standards as all other children, the evidence shows they are not succeeding."
So-called property rich districts also had problems with the school finance system, especially the part that required them to share their local property tax revenue with poorer districts. Next stop: back at the legislature. State lawmakers have been waiting for the ruling to give them guidance on what the law will allow as they decide how to funds our schools.
By Fred Cantu
(AP contributed to this report.)