robin hood law

Marjorie Kamys Cotera, Texas Tribune

Today, Travis County District Court Judge John Dietz issued a ruling that finds the way Texas pays for public schools unconstitutional, calling it a de facto statewide property tax.

The case was brought by hundreds of Texas school districts after the state legislature cut $5 billion from public school funding in 2011.

Nathan Bernier/KUT News

A decision in the latest school finance lawsuit is expected next week, but it could be years before school districts see any changes to the way education is paid for in Texas.

Right now, the school finance system is largely characterized by something called recapture, or  Robin Hood. If a school district collects more local property taxes than the state has determined it needs using a set of formulas, it has to give the difference back to the state. Then, the state puts that money in a big pot and uses it to fund other school districts, especially those that can’t raise enough local property taxes on their own.

Kate McGee, KUT News

Update: Travis County District Judge John Dietz heard opening arguments today in the second round of Texas' school finance trial. The two sides are arguing over whether actions taken by the legislature last year change the judge’s preliminary ruling that the state’s public education finance system is unconstitutional.

When the legislature reconvened last year, it added back $3.4 billion for public education after it cut $5.4 billion during the 2011 session. Lawmakers reduced the number of required standardized tests for graduation from 15 to five.

At issue: were those changes enough to create a fair and equitable system to finance public education and allow schools and students to meet the state standards?

Close up of dollar bill
Image courtesy Paul Sepiano

An AP investigation published in several papers this morning found that dozens of "property-wealthy" school districts held on to money they were supposed to send to the state under the so-called Robin Hood law.