Litigation Trial Update - District Court's Ruling (Feb. 4, 2013)

Greetings!

To a packed courtroom with standing room only, the Honorable Judge Dietz orally pronounced his rulings in the 45 day long school finance trial yesterday afternoon.  

Judge Dietz ruled in favor of the five traditional district plaintiffs, finding for the various traditional district plaintiffs that the state funding system is unconstitutional, as it is inadequate, inefficient, and unsuitable to meet a "general diffusion of knowledge" as required by West Orange Cove Consol. Indep. Sch. Dist., 176 S. W.3d 746 (Tex. 2005), the leading school finance case in Texas.  

Unfortunately, however, Judge Dietz declined to extend the constitutional analysis and protections to the charter school plaintiffs.  Instead, Judge Dietz ruled that with respect to the charter school claims, it is within the Legislature's discretion to fund charter schools differently, and that any funding disparities created by that system do not rise to the level of unconstitutionality.  Judge Dietz said nothing more about our claims.

Similarly, Judge Dietz declined to rule on the claims of the intervening plaintiffs, the Taxpayers for Real Efficiency in Education (TREE), stating that their claims are policy decisions to be made by the Legislature and not the court.

Judge Dietz only issued his rulings orally today and stated that he expects to have a written order within 4 to 6 weeks.  The written order of the court will contain not only findings of fact and conclusions of law, but also, hopefully, a more indepth analysis of why the court denied to rule on the constitutionality of the charter school claims and instead ruled that the level of funding for public charter schools remains within the discretion of the Legislature.

It is difficult to determine the impact and depth of the court's ruling today, but we do know that TCSA and the charter school plaintiffs believe in the constitutionality of our claims, and that we are already planning the next steps in this litigation, including an appeal to the Supreme Court.    In doing so, TCSA and the charter school plaintiffs will need your support every step of the way as we continue to find for the students of Texas.      

 

Should you have any questions about this case, please do not hesitate to contact TCSA attorneys Denise Pierce or Lindsey Jones at 512-584-8272. Tracy Young, VP of Public and Government Affairs, can assist with any questions regarding responses to press/media calls.

 

Sincerely,

Lindsey Jones, Director of Legal and Policy Services

Denise Pierce, General Counsel and Vice President of Member Services

 

Litigation Trial Update - Day 1 (Jan. 29, 2013) 

   




Judge: School finance system unconstitutional
Appeal to Texas Supreme Court expected soon.
By Kate Alexander; February 4, 2013
By raising academic standards and cutting school funding at the same time, Texas lawmakers have rendered the state's method of financing public schools unconstitutional, a judge ruled on Monday. "As the economists put it: There is no free lunch. We either want increased standards and are willing to pay the price, or we don't," state District Judge John Dietz said, ruling immediately from the bench at the close of a 12-week trial. Dietz also found that wide disparities have emerged between school districts that are considered property poor and their wealthier peers. And he said the Legislature has effectively imposed a statewide property tax in violation of the Texas Constitution because school districts have limited taxing capacity left, effectively eliminating local discretion. Read more.

Dietz Rules: You want higher achievement, pay for it
By Jonathan Tilove; February 5, 2013
"There is no free lunch. We either want increased standards and are willing to pay the price, or we don't."

Good morning Austin. Judge John Dietz moved swiftly and sweepingly from the bench Monday at the close of the 12-week school-finance trial. Kate Alexander in the Statesman: "By raising academic standards and cutting school funding at the same time, Texas lawmakers have rendered the state's method of financing public schools unconstitutional, a judge ruled on Monday." "He also found that wide disparities had emerged between school districts that are considered property poor and their wealthier peers. And he said the Legislature had effectively imposed a statewide property tax in violation of the Texas Constitution."

David Dunn, executive director of the Texas Charter Schools Association: "We are disappointed that Judge Dietz ruled against charter school students and their parents, denying them constitutional protections. They have the same constitutional right to facilities funding as every other Texas public school student. Parents and students do not give up their right to facilities funding by choosing the best public school option for their child. However, we are thrilled that the judge ruled the overall public education system, of which charters are an integral part, inadequate." Read more.

 Judge: Texas School Finance Plan Unconstitutional  
By Will Weissert, Associated Press; February 5, 2013
The system Texas uses to fund public schools violates the state's constitution by not providing enough money to school districts and failing to distribute it fairly, a judge ruled Monday in a landmark decision that could force the Legislature to overhaul the way it pays for education. Moments after closing arguments in his packed courtroom, state District Judge John Dietz ruled the funding mechanism does not meet the Texas Constitution's requirements for a fair and efficient system that provides a "general diffusion of knowledge." He declared that funding was inadequate and that there were wide discrepancies in state support received by school districts in wealthy parts of Texas versus those in poorer areas. He also said the system is tantamount to an income tax, which is forbidden by the state constitution. Read more.
Updated: School Finance Ruling Favors Districts 
By Morgan Smith and Elena Schneider; February 4, 2013
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 that 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." Read more. 

Lindsey Jones
Director of Legal and Policy Services

Donate Button
Find us on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter

View our photos on flickr

View our profile on LinkedIn

View our videos on YouTube