First witness testfies in massive school finance trial



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Posted on October 23, 2012 at 11:42 AM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 23 at 5:40 PM

AUSTIN -- The first witness testifed on Tuesday morning on behalf of the coalition of school districts who are suing the State of Texas over the school finance system.

Demographer Dr. Steve Murdock is an expert in population growth and talked about the changing face of Texas Tuesday morning. He was the state's first demographer and later served as the head of the U.S. Census Bureau. He told the court that the majority of growth of Texas residents under 18 are Hispanic residents.

In the Austin area, Dr. Murdock said 18 percent of the population growth of people under the age of 18 is attributed to Anglo children and 65 percent to Hispanic children. He measured the growth from 2000 to 2010.

"Sometimes their parents have reduced language skills, so they come in less well prepared, which means it takes additional money to get them to be competitive as they move forward," said Dr. Murdock.

He also testified about poverty rates in Texas. Dr. Murdock said one in 10 Anglo residents live in poverty while one in four Hispanic residents live in poverty.

Attorney Rick Gray with the Texas Taxpayers and Student Fairness Coalition is trying to use the data to back up his theory that more children are in need in Texas schools, therefore more money is needed to educate them.

The superintendent of Humble ISD, Dr. Guy Sconzo, also testified Tuesday. He said target revenue does not provide enough dollars in his high-growth district.

"Unfortunately, the effects have been far reaching and very negative," said Dr. Sconzo.

The trial is expected to last nearly three months. Civil District Judge John Dietz will make a ruling, but no matter what his decision, the case is expected to be appealed to the Texas Supreme Court.

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