School Finance Ruling Favors Districts
In a decision certain to be appealed to the Texas Supreme Court, state district Judge John Dietz ruled Monday in favor of more than 600 school districts on all of their major claims against the state's school finance system. With a swift ruling issued from the bench shortly after the state finished its closing arguments, Dietz said the state does not adequately or efficiently fund public schools — and that it has created an unconstitutional de-facto property tax in shifting the burden of paying for them to the local level.
"There is no free lunch," he said, "We either want increased standards and are willing to pay the price, or we don't."
Dietz said that issues raised by another party in the lawsuit, Texans for Real Efficiency and Equity in Education — a group representing parents, school choice advocates and the business community that argued the current system was inefficient and overregulated — were better solved by the Legislature. He also declined to find the state cap on charter school contracts, or their lack of access to facilities funding, unconstitutional.
Moments after Dietz spoke, Texas Education Agency Commissioner Michael Williams issued a statement emphasizing that the ruling is "simply one step on this litigation’s path."
“All sides have known that, regardless of the outcome at the district level, final resolution will not come until this case reaches the Texas Supreme Court," he said, "I’m appreciative of the strong case presented by the Attorney General’s Office on behalf of the state. The Texas Education Agency will continue to carry out its mission of serving the students and educators across our state.”