Litigation Trial Update - Day 3 (Jan. 30, 2013)
Well, Wednesday marked not only the third day of presenting charter school evidence but also the final day of a 43 day trial covering school finance litigation. In the spirit of judicial efficiency, we closed our evidence on Wednesday, ending on a high note with the testimony of TCSA Executive Director, David Dunn
. Prior to David's testimony, we heard from Dr. Anthony Rolle and Dr. Craig Wood of Wood, Rolle & Associates, school finance experts.
|Dr. Anthony Rolle |
Dr. Rolle began the day by explaining the expert report he prepared on the state's funding formula. He illustrated the results of his analysis by comparing a variety of funding streams between traditional districts and charters. Dr. Rolle's testimony demonstrated that since state dollars are distributed at the district level, it is only appropriate to use a district-level per student analysis, and highlighted for the court that the State's statewide per student analysis was not the generally accepted professional standard of analysis or the standard used in West Orange Cove Consol. Indep. Sch. Dist., 176 S. W.3d 746 (Tex. 2005) ("West Orange-Cove II"), the leading school finance case in Texas. Dr. Rolle also testified further that it is most appropriate to consider the student population served by analyzing a weighted student figure to achieve a more accurate "apples to apples" comparison of the disparities in state funding for facilities.
|Dr. R. Craig Wood |
then took the stand and was a key witness in many respects. First, Dr. Wood had been an expert for the State in West Orange-Cove II, a fact not missed by Judge Dietz with Dr. Wood noting at the outset of his testimony that it was the "same chair, same courtroom, same judge". This fact was vitally important because Dr. Wood established quickly for the court his expertise not only in Texas school finance generally, but his unparalleled knowledge about the constitutional standard the State must meet in educating its students. Dr. Wood then testified to each of the requirements of the West Orange-Cove II constitutional standard-efficiency, suitability and adequacy. In applying those standards to the data tables prepared by his colleague, Dr. Rolle, Dr. Wood testified that the children of open-enrollment charter schools are clearly at a disadvantage and that the State has failed to meet all three of the constitutional requirements for charter school students. On cross-examination, Dr. Wood was asked whether the fact that students could choose to attend a higher-funded, traditional ISD affected his conclusion of the constitutional burdens the State must meet. Dr. Wood aptly responded, "The burden of constitutionality does not fall on the choice of the child."
|David Dunn |
Executive Director, David Dunn, then took the stand as not only the last charter school witness, but the last witness of the entire school finance trial. David began his testimony by explaining that TCSA joined this lawsuit as a plaintiff to obtain substantially equal access to revenues for its member schools and because the legislative cap on charter schools has no legal rational basis. David, getting a laugh from Judge Dietz, testified that the current cap of 215 was "purely political" and emphasized that there is no rational reason for the cap on the number of charter schools. David then turned to discuss "real world examples", as he called them, of the state of charter facilities, noting their often unsuitable condition. Next, he explained the state funding formula for charter schools and captivated the court's attention by setting forth in a straight-forward manner the two major problems of charter school funding. First, unlike traditional districts, a state average is applied to the formula for every charter school, regardless of the school's characteristics (such as size and geographic area). Second, charter schools receive zero in direct support for facilities. He stressed that the magnitude of the problem results in a funding disparity average of approximately $1,166 FSP per Average Daily Attendance (ADA) per student and approximately $751 FSP per Weighted Average Daily Attendance (WADA) per student. To further illustrate the reality of this disparity for the court, David presented a number of slides that showed a few traditional ISD schools funded as charter schools and the results of this analysis no doubt caught the court's attention. One example, funding HISD as a charter, resulted in a disparity of HISD receiving $35,061,485 less in state funding than it actually received in 2011. David then closed his testimony by summing up the crux of our case, that the charter schools are not asking for a perfect system, but "we are asking for a fair system".
|Judge John K. Deitz and attorneys |
After David's testimony, the Honorable Judge John K. Dietz announced that the court would adjourn until Monday. On Monday, February 4th, the attorneys for all of the parties, including Bob Schulman of our litigation team from Schulman, Lopez & Hoffer, LLP, will give brief closing arguments. After closing arguments, Judge Dietz is expected to issue his ruling, which we hope will result in a historic victory for charter schools in Texas.
As the ruling will be the first on school finance for charters in Texas, we urge you to attend this Monday. It will be an exciting moment for the charter movement. We hope to see you there!
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.
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)