Judge Rules Texas Public School Finance System Unconsitutional
State District Court Judge John Dietz issued his final decision yesterday in the landmark public school funding trial, Texas Taxpayers & Student Fairness Coalition, et al. v. Michael Williams, et al.
Judge Dietz found the system to be inequitable, unsuitable, and inadequate in violation of Article VII, §1 of the Texas Constitution. He also found school districts do not have real, meaningful discretion to adopt property tax rates below the statutory maximum. Therefore creating an unconstitutional state ad valorem tax, in violation of Article VIII, §1-e of the constitution.
This is a historic win for the 443 school district members of the Fairness Coalition, representing over 1.4 million school children statewide, as well as for the districts represented by other groups. However, the state is expected to file an appeal to the Texas Supreme Court, who have to sustain Judge Dietz’s decision that the state funding system is unconstitutional.
Paris ISD Superintendent Paul Jones commented on the ruling, “My concern has always focused on equity. If the ruling is upheld by the Texas Supreme Court, a starting point for discussion needs to focus on creating an equitable system. Under our current system we have school districts across the state that are receiving thousands more per child in state dollars than other school districts. My question is why? Why did our legislators create a system that funds Sunnyvale ISD at a rate of $2,000 more per child than the children in Lamar County receive?”
Mr. Jones continues, “If every school district in Lamar County received the state average per child funding, that would bring $28 million additional state dollars to the children who attend public schools in Lamar County. These children are worth at least that amount of state funding, regardless of the zip code in which they reside.”
Rick Gray, lead attorney for the Coalition, said,”I am delighted with Judge Dietz’s ruling. It is my hope that the Legislature will once and for all permanently fix the school finance system such that all school districts will be provided adequate and equitable funding in order to provide all Texas school children the education necessary to become college and career ready.”