State district Judge John Dietz's ruling that the Texas school finance system is unconstitutional is being celebrated by many school district administrators, but one group involved the lawsuit is probably not popping champagne bottles tonight: charter school advocates.
“We are disappointed that Judge Dietz ruled against charter school students and their parents, denying them constitutional protections,” Texas Charter Schools Association executive director David Dunn said in a statement. He added, however, that they were pleased with the ruling that the overall education system is inadequate.
The school finance case was actually six lawsuits merged into one. Among them was a legal action filed by the Texas Charter Schools Association. They argued that charter school students had the same right to public facilities funding as children in traditional school districts.
But in his ruling, Judge Dietz wrote that “it is within the Legislature’s discretion to fund charters differently than public school districts. Any disparities do not rise to the level of rendering the entire system unconstitutional.”
Judge Dietz also rejected a claim brought by another group supporting charter schools called Texans for Real Efficiency in Education. They were hoping the judge would strike down the cap on the number of charter school permits that can be issued in Texas, which currently stands at 215. But Dietz said the cap falls within "sound discretion of the Legislature in shaping the public school system."
Several bills filed this session would allow more charter school permits to be issued, and the principle has the support of Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, and the chair of the Senate Public Education Committee Dan Patrick.