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School finance retrial starts today

Back in the saddle again.

A fight over the state’s controversial school funding system is headed back to court Tuesday before the same judge who declared it unconstitutional nearly a year ago, with state lawyers hoping they can persuade him that an infusion of new money and other legislative remedies have restored the requisite measure of equity to Texas’ classrooms.

But Judge John K. Dietz must also weigh arguments from attorneys representing hundreds of cash-strapped Texas school districts, who contend that $3.9 billion in education funding restored by the Legislature last year – still a billion and a half dollars less than the $5.4 billion cut in 2011 – has fallen far short of attaining the educational standards required by the state constitution. Dietz ruled in February 2012 that Texas did not adequately or equitably fund public schools. The 2011 funding cuts, he found, violated the constitution by preventing school district from exercising “meaningful discretion” in setting local tax rates.

The trial is expected to last up to four weeks.

See herer, here, and here for the previous entries. Everybody knows this is going to go back to the Supreme Court. The question is whether Judge Dietz buys the state’s arguments that the partial restoration of funds cut from 2011 plus the scaling back of standardized testing puts the finance system back into compliance, however temporary. For various and in most cases obvious reasons, the school districts as well as the poseurs at Texans for Real Efficiency and Equity in Education, who think the problem is too much money, don’t agree. I don’t either, but we’ll see what Judge Dietz thinks.

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