- Paris Flash
- Real Estate
The finance system Texas uses for its public schools is unconstitutional, according to a state district judge. Now what?
“School finance litigation has been in the courts for the past 30 years,” said Paris Independent School District Superintendent Paul Trull. “Maybe this time it will result in student equity and taxpayer fairness.”
PISD was one of more than 600 Texas school districts represented in four groups suing the state over its finance system. Judge John Dietz of the 250th Judicial District Civil declared it unconstitutional Monday after a three-month trial.
“I am not sure of the final outcome, but I think Judge Dietz’s decision will open many opportunities for the legislators to thoroughly examine the school funding system and establish a system that will support all school children in the state of Texas,” said Chisum ISD Superintendent Diane Stegall.
“As the standards rise with STAAR assessments and school accountability, it is imperative that all students have the opportunity to learn the knowledge and skills needed to be contributing citizens of our society. I understand tough economic times and that sometimes we must tighten our budgets, but school districts cannot continue to meet the higher expectations without the appropriate resources. A quality educated work force will ensure a state that is economically sound.”
Rather than a state income tax, Texas uses local property taxes to fund local school districts. Attorneys for the school districts said the lowest 15 percent tax 8 cents more on average than the wealthiest 15 percent, but get about $43,000 less per classroom.
Dietz ruled that the system is unsuitable for providing a “general diffusion of knowledge” for low-income students and English-language learners, which is required by the state constitution. At the same time, poorer districts have been forced to tax at or near the state cap of $1.17, which the judge said has created a statewide property tax – also against the Texas Constitution. The ruling is preliminary. A detailed, written order, isn’t expected for at least a month.
This is not the first time for Dietz to take a look at school funding. He presided over a school finance lawsuit in 2004, which led to the current system’s establishment in 2006.
The Attorney General’s Office is expected to appeal to the Texas Supreme Court.
“The attorney general will appeal the decision,” Trull said. “The Supreme Court will uphold the decision. The Legislature had ignored previous decisions/intent before.”