Legal battle over Texas school finance continues


by TINA SHIVELY / KVUE News, Photojournalist KENNETH NULL

Bio | Email | Follow: @TinaS_KVUE

Posted on January 21, 2014 at 8:35 AM

Updated Tuesday, Jan 21 at 12:54 PM

AUSTIN -- Lawyers representing more than 600 Texas school districts are back in court to debate public school spending. A judge will decide whether his 2013 ruling that the education system is unconstitutional will stand.

Judge John Dietz began Tuesday's hearing with a quote from Yogi Berra saying, "It feels like Deja Vu all over again."

It's being called round two in the fight over public school funding, a battle with no end in sight. It all started in 2011 when the districts' claimed the Texas Legislature violated the state constitution by making it impossible for them to offer an adequate education.

Lawmakers had cut $5.4 billion from the education budget.

Last February Judge Dietz agreed and ruled that the way Texas funds schools is inadequate and inequitable in three areas:

  • Equity: Each child should get the same amount regardless of their zip code.
  • Adequacy: Districts should receive enough money to do what the state education system asks them to do.
  • Tax capacity: Do districts have enough tax money to run their education programs?

Since the ruling, lawmakers have restored $3.4 billion and drastically cut the number of standardized tests required to graduate from 15 down to five.

Educators say they need even more resources to make sure Texas students can be successful.

"The really important part of this case is that we recognize that we have high standards in Texas," said Brock Gregg, the governmental relations director of the Association of Texas Professional Educators. "We have not reduced those standards by reducing tests, and that in order to meet those standards we're gonna have to have additional resources."

In last February's oral report, Judge Dietz stated that Texas needs to spend $2,000 more per student per year to meet its goals. That's approximately $10 billion dollars more per year for education.

The testimony is expected to take three weeks. Lawyers with State Attorney General Greg Abbott's office are representing the state.

Whether Judge Dietz decides that his ruling stands or not, the Texas Supreme Court will likely take up  the issue and make the final decision.

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