Judge Rules Against School Funding Plan
A Texas judge has dealt a major blow to the state's current school financing plan. District Judge John Dietz on Monday ruled that the Texas legislature's system of funding public education is in violation of the state Constitution, bringing an end to a trial that lasted more than three months in Austin. More than 600 school districts statewide sued the state, claiming the way it funds schools is inadequate and unfair. Legal Analyst Chris Tritico tells KTRH the lawsuit was brought on solid grounds. "The funding scheme that the Legislature has, which is let's take as much money out as possible, is not going to allow the districts to keep up the high standards the state expects."
Tritico, who supports the districts' position, says the big issue that prompted the case was the Legislature cutting $5.4 billion from public education in 2011, despite soaring enrollment. He says that left many schools with what amounted to unfunded mandates. "We've got a lot of standardized tests, a lot of issues that take teachers away from teaching," he argues. "And then you take money out of the system, it makes it even harder to do what they have to do." The state has argued that the funding system is not perfect, but is still constitutional. State attorneys claimed during the trial that the problem wasn't the amount of funding, but rather how the districts chose to spend it.
Tritico says this ruling puts the issue back in the hands of lawmakers. "The Legislature is now gonna have to go back to the drawing board and create a funding scheme that funds all of our schools at the level at which the Texas Constitution requires." But before that can happen, the legal wrangling will likely continue. The Texas Attorney General's Office is expected to appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court. Tritico agrees that there won't be any quick resolution to the issue, despite this latest ruling. "I think you will see a bill come out that gives more money for education, but it will just bring about a new round of litigation," he says.