School Districts And State Heading Back To Court In January Over School Finance
Hundreds of school districts from across the state will head back to court on Jan. 21 to once again examine the Texas legislature’s formula for funding education. Attorneys are arguing that new money and reduced student testing did little to improve the way Texas finances the public school system.
In February 2013, the case was almost decided when Travis County District Judge John Dietz said the Texas school finance system was unconstitutional, but did not reduce that ruling to writing. This left the door open for the legislature to pass laws that would’ve replaced the $5.4 billion cut from public education in 2011 and make changes to how evenly the money was distributed.
"They took some action during their session and now we scheduled to go back to court for re-opening the evidence on the 21st of January and that is to just address the actions of the 83rd Legislature and what they did and how that will affect Judge Dietz' ruling that he gave from the bench," said Austin attorney Richard Gray, who represents the Texas Taxpayers and Student Fairness Coalition, a collection of parents and teachers from over 400-school districts.
During the 2013 legislative session, lawmakers replaced $3.4 billion of the $5.4 billion that was cut from the public education budget in 2011. Gray said those are some good steps but it still isn’t enough.
"We’re appreciative and the districts are appreciative of the money they got but this is not in any way, shape or form giving them the money back or making them whole," he said.
Gray said the January court date is not a new trial, its an examination of new numbers. That assessment is backed up by the Texas Supreme Court, who heard and ruled against arguments that continuing the school finance was constitutional.