Politics Magazine

Texas School Funding Is Unconstitutional

Posted on the 05 February 2013 by Jobsanger
Texas School Funding Is Unconstitutional A few years ago, the state's funding of Texas schools was found to be unconstitutional. Courts decided in favor of poor school districts that claimed they were funded less than richer districts (even though those poorer districts had higher property taxes going to education). The legislature had to go back to the drawing board and devise a new scheme to fund Texas schools.
What they came up with was a system that took property tax money from richer school districts and gave them to poorer districts. The plan, almost instantly very unpopular, was called the "Robin Hood" plan. Then in the last legislative session, the state cut about $5 billion from the state's share of school funding. The ultimate result of these actions was that both poor and rich school districts were now struggling with their budgets. Poor districts were still underfunded, and so were rich districts (because their citizens refused to raise taxes, know much of the money would go to a poor district).
So the school districts went back to court -- and this time it was both rich and poor districts claiming the state funding system was unfair. The suit was joined in by about 2/3 of the state's school districts. Yesterday, State Judge John Dietz ruled in the suit. He ruled that the state's funding of schools still violated the state constitution -- ruling it was both unfair and did not adequately fund the state's schools.
But it is not yet time to celebrate. The state will undoubtably appeal the decision to the Texas Supreme Court. And that court is made up entirely of right-wing Republicans. It is within the realm of possibility that the Supreme Court could overturn the decision (which would keep the state's schools in an underfunded mess). Even if the court upholds Judge Dietz's decision, it will probably not be in time for the legislature currently in session to act on the matter.
Unless Governor Perry called a special session (which I don't think is likely), fixing the school funding problem will probably be left to the 2015 legislature -- and if it is still controlled by right-wing extremists (a definite possibility), they will probably come up with another ridiculous (and probably unconstitutional) scheme to avoid adequately funding Texas schools. And the schools will again go to the courts.
The decision by Judge Dietz was a good first step. But the solution to the funding problem faced by Texas schools is still a long way off. And unless the legislature changes their attitude, and puts the good of school children above their ideology and re-election, it will remain so. I would like to be more optimistic about a real solution being found, but I've watched the Republican legislature for too long to be anything but pessimistic.

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