Tue February 5, 2013
Judge: State's Education Funding System Unconstitutional
More than 600 school districts from across Texas are celebrating now that Judge John Dietz from the 250th District Court found the state’s school finance system was unconstitutional. Meanwhile, state attorneys are gearing up to appeal the ruling to the Texas Supreme Court.
The lead attorney for the state in this case is Nichole Bunker-Henderson. She told the court, “It is true, as the plaintiffs have alleged, that we have all been asked to do more with less. State agencies cut nearly 10 percent of their budgets, and districts less than half of that. Our system did not collapse," she said. "It did not fall off the bridge. Perhaps the system became more efficient.”
Perhaps it did. But the evidence provided by attorneys representing the school districts convinced Judge John Dietz that doing more with less came at a price. Rick Gray is one of the school attorneys. He said in many cases, school districts raised taxes to the limit and the state still left them underfunded. “The issue of local enrichment is a cruel, cruel joke when it comes to my coalition,” said Gray, who represents 443 school districts. “[They] simply have no ability for any local enrichment.”
The judge ruled in favor of the schools. He said the funding system is unconstitutional. The congratulatory spirit broke immediately after.
Pflugerville ISD Superintendent Charles Dupre said he knows the state will challenge Monday’s decision to the Texas Supreme Court. He says “it will be years [before there’s a definite answer] just simply because historically School Finance lawsuits have taken years. So, we believe it will be a matter of time. But it’s worth the battle. It’s worth the time we are investing in this”