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Equity Center

The recapture blues

What are you gonna do?

BagOfMoney

At least once a year, an official from a property-wealthy Texas school calls Christy Rome and tells her they’re just not going to do it. They don’t want to send a big chunk of their tax dollars to the state, even though they’re required to do so under a state law meant to buoy poorer districts.

“I can’t recommend that,” the Texas School Coalition chief always tells them, citing a host of potentially worse financial consequences.

The resistance dates back to the mid-1990s, when Texas lawmakers — under the gun of a court order — enacted a plan known as Robin Hood that was meant to ease vast funding inequities among school districts fueled by a property tax-based funding system.

For years, getting rid of the scheme altogether was the primary legislative goal of Rome’s 140-member coalition of school districts, which has unsuccessfully fought Robin Hood in the courts. Now, she says, the goal is simply to rein it in.

With major pushback from property-poor schools and decades of case law reinforcing the take-from-the-rich, give-to-the-poor concept, whether that will happen is a big question.

But Rome says the group is hopeful for reform during the 2017 legislative session. Resistance from property-wealthy schools has exploded, along with the number of districts — including very big ones — required to pay up under the Robin Hood plan.

[…]

The coalition will face fierce resistance from property-poor schools, represented by the Equity Center, which agree with wealthier districts that the state has grown too reliant on local tax revenue to fund public education and underfunds schools in general. But they also believe Robin Hood is crucial to easing funding inequities. The system is far kinder to property-wealthy districts even if they have to make recapture payments, said Equity Center Executive Director Wayne Pierce.

Contrary to popular belief, he said, that money isn’t funneled directly to poor districts but instead into a big pot of money distributed to all of the state’s more than 1,200 public and charter schools. And he said schools like Houston and Austin still get hundreds more dollars per student than the average school district.

“Recapture is a salvation to public education,” Pierce said. “Those that pay it are still funded at higher levels and have lower tax rates, so it’s not hurting those schools but it is helping the state.”

The only way the Equity Center would support eliminating Robin Hood, Pierce said, is if the state totally changed the way it funds public schools, replacing local property taxes with a statewide property tax or other statewide tax — a concept that has had little to no political traction.

The genesis of this story is HISD having to make a recapture payment, which comes at an especially bad time for them. I wish the story had explored the HISD board’s handing the issue off to voters, as that subject needs to get more attention, but I’ll have to wait till another day for it. The bottom line is that Pierce is right, a statewide tax is the fairest way to do this, and it ain’t gonna happen any time soon. The Republican leadership wants to spend less on education, and it wants to point a finger at the school districts when they are left holding the bag. At the risk of repeating myself, nothing will change until the leadership of this state changes.

Supreme Court to hear school finance appeal in September

Mark your calendars.

The Texas Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Sept. 1 in the long-running case challenging the state’s school-finance system.

“We are very pleased that the court is moving so expeditiously,” attorney David Thompson, representing the Houston Independent School District, Fort Bend ISD and dozens of others, said Friday. “We think it’s a recognition of how important this issue is to every community in the state.”

More than two-thirds of Texas districts sued the state in 2011 after lawmakers cut $5.4 billion from public education amid a budget crunch while raising academic standards. In the suit, hundreds of school districts argued that, despite warnings from the Texas Supreme Court over the years about school funding, “the State has fallen back on temporary fixes that ultimately fail to support the increasing expectations Texas has set for a student population that is rapidly growing and disadvantaged.”

In response, the suit argued, districts have had to respond “in what amounts to an unconstitutional state property tax.”

In addition, the suit also claimed the current system was inefficient and inadequate to fund districts at a constitutional and equitable level.

[…]

Then-Attorney General Greg Abbott, now governor, appealed the ruling directly to the state Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case in January.

“After nearly four years of successful litigation, the inequities in the current system remain critically excessive,” said Wayne Pierce, executive director of the Equity Center, which provided research and testimony for the Texas Taxpayer & Student Fairness Coalition representing the school districts in the suit.

He said the system has long been broken, with many districts underfunded while taxpayers are burdened with property taxes.

“It is not unusual at all for the poorest districts to receive 50, 60,000 dollars less per typical elementary classroom than what the state system routinely makes available in the wealthier districts,” added Pierce.

Just as a reminder, the original trial was held in 2012 with the first of the six suits being filed in October of 2011; the final verdict was rendered last August after a rehearing in June of 2013 to consider the effect of that year’s legislative session. Abbott appealed the latest ruling last September, and here we are. Depending on how things go, we could have a special session sometime next year, or the Lege could try to address any needed changes in the regular 2017 session. If Judge Dietz’s ruling is upheld and the Lege is going to have to pony up a few more billion dollars to the schools, it will make for a very interesting session, that’s for sure.

School finance retrial, Day One

And they’re off, again.

Back in the courtroom after a 2013 legislative session in which lawmakers added money back to the state public education budget, lawyers representing nearly two-thirds of Texas school districts argued on Tuesday that the funding boost was short term, and that other changes had increased costs for schools.

“Any and all funding changes are temporary at best. There is absolutely no requirement they be in existence beyond the year 2015,” said Rick Gray, a lawyer for the Equity Center, which represents about 400 school districts, the bulk of them poor, in the sprawling litigation that involves five other parties. “It was an exceedingly small step in the right direction.”

Implementing complex new high school curriculum requirements, he said, including hiring more school counselors and broadening vocational education options, had imposed additional expenses on districts.

[…]

On Tuesday, school districts rejected any suggestion that legislative changes had weakened their argument.

“The state can’t dumb down its constitutional obligations and say that perhaps students aren’t held to same college-ready standards as they were previously,” said attorney David Hinojosa, referring to the new high school graduation standards.

But state lawyer Shelley Dahlberg said that all but a handful of districts met the state’s accountability standards and that student performance remained constant even in the face of budget cuts.

The new laws passed in 2013, she said, only improved an already consitutional system.

“School districts asked for and received more discretion and flexibility on every level,” she said.

Which doesn’t mean they got enough, of course. The state had argued that the post-2011, pre-2013 system was just fine as it was, so obviously they think the partial restoration of the drastic cuts from 2011 was manna from heaven. I don’t think the Lege did nearly enough, and I don’t think Judge Dietz will think the Lege did enough. Whether the Supreme Court thinks the Lege did enough is another question. Not that they have to get involved, however – his assertions to the contrary, AG Greg Abbott could try to settle the case instead of litigating it to the bitter end. Needless to say, I don’t think he’ll do that. I look forward to reading Judge Dietz’s opinion. Better Texas Blog has more.

We have a long history of screwing public schools in this state

I’ve been meaning to post about this Texas Observer story about the current status of school finance, the litigation challenging it, and the story of how we got here. Here’s a little local angle to illustrate one of the many ways in which the system is messed up.

Even one of the state’s most efficient districts, Northwest Houston’s Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District (ISD), is bleeding out slowly after eight years of cuts.

Cy-Fair, the state’s third-largest district, has become a model for doing more with less. It’s consistently a top performer not only in the state comptroller’s rankings of budget efficiency, but also in state test scores. The district hasn’t suffered the massive teacher layoffs some others have, and spokeswoman Kelli Durham says that’s because the district has grown so adept at finding other places to cut. Still, Cy-Fair has scaled back its custodial contracts, cut money for field trips, and skimped on new furniture, trimming $125 million (20 percent of the district’s current budget) in less than a decade. They’ve gotten more waivers than ever before to exceed the state’s 22-student cap in kindergarten-through-4th grade classrooms.

To keep running smoothly through the tight times, Durham says, district leaders cashed in on trust and goodwill they’ve built with their community over time, asking teachers and the whole Cy-Fair community to do more for their schools. But that solution, Durham says, is not sustainable. “In reality, people can’t do double-time for a long period of time.”

Most districts receive more than Cy-Fair’s annual $4,800 per student, but some get even less. The state’s current funding scheme harms them all in different ways. In wealthy districts, parents pay thousands in taxes every month, then watch the state give it to some other school. Their kids sell candy bars and magazines so their school can make ends meet. In poorer districts, students may have to pay to ride the bus to a school that’s more crowded than ever—the sort of environment that makes it easier than ever for students to drop out without being missed.

[…]

In 2005, the Texas Supreme Court ruled the school finance system unconstitutional. With so many districts maxing out their property tax rates, the court ruled that the system amounted to a statewide property tax—outlawed by the state constitution. State lawmakers were ordered to reduce property tax rates, which they did in 2006, but not before muddling the whole system even more.

Rather than update the old formulas used to determine how much money a district should get, the Legislature in 2006 invented a new benchmark— “target revenue”— based on each district’s property tax revenues in 2005. The strategy was meant to protect districts from losing money as the state lowered property taxes. But it created its own grave inequities in funding between districts. Target revenue not only doesn’t provide districts enough money, it makes inequalities worse over time.

In an absurd twist, the target revenue system actually punished the school districts that were most efficient with their money. This is why Cy-Fair ISD finds itself at such a severe disadvantage under the current system. It’s a large district that got by for years by pinching pennies. But now the district’s funding is tied to its 2005 levels of property tax revenue and per-student spending.

“If we had not been so efficient, we would’ve come up with a better target revenue [figure],” says Durham, the Cy-Fair spokesperson.

HISD is largely in the same position. Its property tax rate is below the mandated cap, and it could have made up for at least some of the funding cuts by raising its rate, but as primarily argued by Trustee Harvin Moore, it shouldn’t be in the position of having to subsidize the state’s failure. Once again, we wait for the courts to step in and force the Lege to Do Something. Let’s hope this time the effect is positive.

In the meantime, of course, you can get involved locally and at the Capitol. I’ve already mentioned this, but it’s worth showing again (and again):

Here in Houston, in addition to the community grassroots meeting this evening, you can hear Wayne Pierce, the Executive Director of the Equity Center, and David Thompson, the lead litigator on the lawsuit for which HISD is a plaintiff, give a talk on where things stand and what you can do about it. The talk is Monday, March 5, from 10 to 12 at the United Way of Greater Houston, 50 Waugh Drive (map). Here’s a flyer with the details. You can also team up with the Equity Center as they press forward.

If you can’t attend that, you can attend a family fundraiser for the Texas Parent PAC on Sunday the 4th, from 2 to 4 at the Nature Discovery Center, 7112 Newcastle at Evergreen in Bellaire. More details for that are here. If you want to sign on as a sponsor, see here for more. Get informed, get involved, and get out and vote. And don’t forget who’s on your side and who isn’t.

And then there were three

Three school finance lawsuits, that is.

Flanked by Edgewood Superintendent Jose Cervantes, parents, students and community leaders from Texas districts, MALDEF attorney David Hinojosa highlighted three key claims in its suit at a press conference Tuesday.

The lawsuit claims the state has shown inequitable treatment against property-poor school districts in violation of the Texas Constitution, with gaps in funding forcing impoverished districts to tax at a higher rate than rich districts.

It says the state inadequately funds low-income and English Language Learner students’ education.

It claims that local school districts have lost all meaningful discretion in setting their tax rates by having to deal with a tax cap putting the biggest burden on poor districts.

The article refers to four such lawsuits, but as far as I can tell only three have been filed so far. The Equity Center lawsuit was first, in October, and the Texas School Coalition suit came last week. The Thompson lawsuit is still out there, but as far as I can tell from searching around, it has not been filed yet, and appears to have been delayed a bit. Originally expected to be filed in mid-November, this story from November 29, which I found on the Thompson & Horton LLP website, said that it was expected the week of December 5. As that has now come and gone, I presume we’re still waiting. And as with the redistricting litigation, these suits may well end up being joined, but it’s too early to say. According to the story, don’t expect any or all to go to trial till next fall.

Second school finance lawsuit filed

We’re just getting warmed up.

A coalition of property wealthy school districts jumped into the school funding fray Friday, filing a separate lawsuit claiming the current system has created another illegal statewide property tax and does not provide children with adequate funding.

It’s the second school finance lawsuit filed this fall, with two additional suits expected next week. All are aimed at a Texas public education system that critics contend is unequal and inadequate to meet the growing needs of a student enrollment increasing by at least 80,000 children per year.

[…]

While the trend line shows that school funding is dropping, the state’s school accountability system is getting tougher, said Mark Trachtenberg, a Houston-based lawyer for Haynes and Boone, the law firm representing 60 property wealthy school districts joining the Texas School Coalition suit. More are expected to join in the coming months, Trachtenberg said, noting the coalition includes 120 school districts.

[…]

Other lawsuits, including one led by the Texas Equity Center, will focus on vast inequities in the school funding system. Per student funding in Texas now ranges from less than $5,000 per child in some school districts to more than $10,000 in others, according to the Equity Center’s suit, which involves 362 school districts. Texas school districts have lost previous court claims that school funding was inadequate to meet their needs. The Texas Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that the state’s public school funding system had not yet become inadequate — but warned: “It remains to be seen whether the system’s predicted drift toward constitutional inadequacy will be avoided by legislative reaction to widespread calls for changes.”

Trachtenberg was one of the attorneys in the previous school finance lawsuit, so he knows his way around the issue. This suit differs from the Equity Center suit in a key way.

[The plaintiffs] contend the current system violates the state constitution in two ways: Legislators have effectively imposed a statewide property tax because districts do not have “meaningful discretion” over local tax rates; and the state provides inadequate funding for schools to prepare students while requiring them to meet higher academic standards.

The suit does not, however, argue that the system is inequitable, which is a central argument of the first school finance lawsuit filed this fall. That group of plaintiffs represents districts from the lower end of the spectrum in terms of per-student funding and now has 362 school districts and about 1.2 million students.

Trachtenberg said his districts wanted to avoid that claim because they are concerned that the potential remedy could hurt the districts without actually improving the situation overall by forcing the state to put more money into public education.

Eanes Superintendent Nola Wellman said the district supports equity in public education but not at the expense of property-wealthy districts.

“We believe that equity must be addressed by ‘leveling up’ the funding from the state rather than taking funds from one district to give to another,” she said.

The second claim, about the state mandating standards then not providing sufficient funds for districts to meet those standards is central to the not-yet-filed Thompson lawsuit, to which HISD is a party. The ideal outcome here is that the state is forced to put more money into public education and that it is forced to come up with a way of ensuring that funding keeps up with growth and need. These plaintiffs are hoping that by doing so, there will no longer be a need for recapture. If you’re thinking that this will require a massive overhaul of the state’s tax structure, you’re on the same page as I am. We’ll see how it goes.

More schools join the lawsuits

Lubbock:

The Lubbock Independent School District announced Monday they will join the Texas Taxpayer and Student Fairness Coalition in an equity lawsuit against the state.

Simply put, LISD is receiving less money per student because they are one of the poorest districts, and LISD claims that is unfair.

LISD officials say the district currently receives $4,600 per student, where as Austin districts receive nearly $6,500 per student. Now they are joining 300 other Texas Schools and taking their case to the courtroom.

“We remain constant in the 2005-2006 school year in terms of revenue. This past legislative session we were cut well over $13, almost $14 million dollars,” said LISD Superintendent Dr. Karen Garza.

LISD says with those cuts from Austin, standards increased. For instance, The Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills Test will now be replaced with the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness or STAAR test. LISD says that requires students to have more math and science with less money.

“It’s largely contingent upon the legislature that eventually needs to fix some of the challenges and the issue in the ways schools are funded in the state of Texas,” said Garza.

Abilene:

The Abilene Independent School District board of trustees voted unanimously Monday night to join more than 20 other school districts in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Texas’ school funding system.

“No fundamental change in the education system has ever occurred without going to the courts for relief,” said Stan Lambert, board president.

[…]

The board voted to join a coalition of more than 20 school districts — including Fort Worth ISD, Austin ISD, Houston ISD and Katy ISD — being represented by Houston law firm Thompson & Horton LLP.

Lambert said the firm’s David Thompson argued a similar case before the Texas Supreme Court six years ago and won some small changes in the education funding system.

Lambert said the lawsuit was necessary because the state’s education funding system was fundamentally broken.

There are more than 1,000 school districts in Texas, and Lambert said he expected more than half of them to join the lawsuit by the time it is filed.

“We felt it was important for us to do our part,” Lambert said.

So that’s one more district for each of the known lawsuits; the Texas Taxpayer and Student Fairness Coalition has already filed its suit, while the Thompson suit is still in the works. At this point I’m more interested in the reasons why a given district would not be suing rather than why they are.

More school districts looking at school finance lawsuit

From San Antonio.

Trustees of the area’s two largest school districts — North East and Northside — on Tuesday deliberated about joining a lawsuit against the state over what some consider to be an inadequate and inequitable education funding system.

Houston attorney David Thompson, who plans to file a lawsuit, one of several expected over the issue, spoke to trustees of both districts during separate board meetings Tuesday night.

San Antonio, Harlandale and South San Antonio school districts have already joined a lawsuit filed by the Texas Taxpayer & Student Fairness Coalition.

[…]

Thompson plans to argue in his lawsuit that once the Legislature adopts standards to meet the state’s constitutional education requirements — such as setting college readiness goals and standardized testing expectations — the state is obligated to fund those mandates.

But because legislators cut school funding by $5 billion this year, Northside cut its budget by $61.4 million and NEISD cut its by $28.4 million.

“Did the Legislature order the highway department to go build roads and bridges that weren’t funded? Of course not,” Thompson said to NEISD trustees. “I wouldn’t want to drive on that bridge. Why would we do that to our kids?”

Thompson said that while the Equity Center lawsuit may draw more districts, he expects his lawsuit to represent more students. The Equity Center lawsuit has drawn more than 285 districts, according to a news release. Thompson said about two dozen districts have joined his lawsuit thus far. East Central ISD is also discussing it.

Depending on their student population, districts could pay up to $65,000 to join Thompson’s lawsuit, which he expects to file in mid-November.

Thompson’s lawsuit is the one that HISD voted to join. Austin ISD has joined the Texas Taxpayer & Student Fairness Coalition/Equity Center lawsuit. They will probably be joined at some point, along with a third lawsuit that will allege that the state is imposing an unconstitutional statewide property tax again, which was what the West Orange-Cove lawsuit was about. In the meantime, it’s a little confusing to keep track of them all – I now realize that I had thought HISD voted to join the Equity lawsuit, not the Thompson one. So many reasons to sue, so little time. Anyway, NEISD and Northside have not made a final decision yet, but I expect they’ll jump in.

UPDATE: I incorrectly started that Austin ISD voted to join the Equity Center lawsuit. They actually joined the Thompson lawsuit. It’s so hard to keep track. My thanks to Jenny LaCoste Caputo of the Texas Association of School Administrators for the catch.

HISD to join school finance lawsuit

Good.

The Houston school board committed Thursday to suing the state, adding to a growing list of districts taking legal action to force Texas lawmakers to improve the way they fund public education.

Trustees of the Houston Independent School District voted 5-0 to join a pending lawsuit that will ask a Travis County court to declare Texas’ school funding system unconstitutional, claiming it’s inadequate to meet increasing educational standards.

HISD, the largest district in the state, joins Fort Bend, Pearland, La Porte and Sweeny in the Houston area in pledging to join a lawsuit to be filed by attorney David Thompson, who has litigated prior funding suits. More districts are expected to follow.

“We are dramatically raising standards more than any time in the history of Texas and we are simultaneously cutting funds,” Thompson said.

HISD trustees Paula Harris, Larry Marshall, Manuel Rodriguez Jr., Anna Eastman and Juliet Stipeche voted in favor of the suit. Trustees Greg Meyers, Harvin Moore, Mike Lunceford and Carole Mims Galloway were absent.

I hope someone asks the absentees for their opinion on this. I know that Harvin Moore has been vocal about the unfairness of HISD getting shorted by the state and possibly having to raise its tax rate when it has worked hard to be able to maintain that tax rate, so I imagine he’d be on board. I can’t see Galloway being opposed, either. I don’t know enough about Lunceford or Meyers to speculate. See here for some background, and here for HISD’s statement. Hair balls has more.

First school finance lawsuit filed

More will follow, it’s just a matter of when and how many.

A coalition representing public school districts, taxpayers and parents filed a lawsuit against the state in Travis County district court Monday night. The Texas Taxpayer & Student Fairness Coalition claims the state’s public school finance system is unconstitutional because it does not treat Texas taxpayers and school children fairly.

[…]

The group of more than 150 school districts represented by the coalition continues to grow daily, and many more districts, taxpayers, parents and even business owners are expected to formally join in the coming months, Gray said.

Named as plaintiffs to represent the Texas Taxpayer & Student Fairness Coalition are the Hillsboro, Hutto, Nacogdoches, Pflugerville, San Antonio, Taylor, and Van independent school districts.

The trustees of the Houston Independent School District are expected to meet Thursday to discuss possible legal options, according to HISD spokesman Jason Spencer.

As noted in the wire story, this is the Equity Center lawsuit that I have blogged about before. You can read their press release here, and a copy of the complaint they filed here. Needless to say, I look forward to seeing this play out.

The actual filing comes a couple of days after this Statesman story about the state of the anticipated litigation, which has a succinct summary of what’s at stake.

At least three legal teams representing different types of school districts intend to file lawsuits soon.

Each of the lawsuits, while making somewhat different claims, will center on the 48 words included in the Texas Constitution since 1876 that require the Legislature to provide an “efficient system of public free schools.”

Schools argue that the system is anything but efficient because, they say, funding levels are arbitrary, irrational and inequitable.

They maintain that the Legislature has once again levied a statewide property tax, which is constitutionally prohibited.

Finally, they say funding is inadequate to prepare students to meet the state’s standards, which have been ratcheted up in recent years.

The lawsuits will be combined for a trial that would probably be held next fall in Travis County, which could produce a district court ruling in time for the 2013 legislative session. A direct appeal to the Texas Supreme Court would almost certainly follow.

In other words, despite the Equity Center’s hope of a 2013 conclusion, which would be in time for the next regular legislative session, we likely won’t get a resolution to this until 2015. It is possible that the Supreme Court could mandate a deadline before then, however, as was the case with the 2005 West Orange-Cove lawsuit, which required a special session to meet its 2006 goal. On the plus side, that ought to make fixing school finance a genuine issue for the 2014 elections. I can hope, can’t I? There’s a lot more detail in the story, so read the whole thing.

Another school finance lawsuit update

The Trib brings some news about the impending school finance lawsuits. Yes, lawsuits – there are two in the works.

The Equity Center’s lawsuit will focus on fairness, attacking the target revenue system established in 2006 when lawmakers reduced the property tax rate and guaranteed that districts would get no less than the amount they received per student at that time. That stopgap has since become permanent, resulting in an arbitrary funding scheme in which neighboring school districts can have as much as a $7,000 difference in state spending per student — and, the Equity Center will argue, is wildly inefficient.

Many of the state’s 1,030 school districts, like its largest, Houston ISD, whose school board will take up the question at its meeting on Oct. 13, have yet to decide whether they will join a suit. But as of Tuesday, 139 districts — a mix of suburban, rural and inner-city schools of varying sizes, though they are primarily low- to middle-property wealth — have joined the Equity Center’s coalition of schools. In addition to schools, Executive Director Wayne Pierce said they also eventually plan to include taxpayers like business owners and parents in the suit as well.

See here, here, and here for some background. School Zone has a list of the districts that have signed on so far. I will be very interested to see if HISD joins in. I hope they do.

[Attorney David] Thompson’s group will focus primarily on adequacy and property tax issues, arguing that not only has the state failed to dedicate enough money to public education for schools to meet increasingly rigorous accountability standards, but that in doing so, it has not given local districts enough choice in how to spend or whether to raise property taxes — in effect, instituting an unconstitutional statewide property tax.

“Educational standards are continuing to go up, but the revenue is flat-lined — and in this session it’s gone down,” said Rickey Dailey, a spokesman for the Texas School Coalition, a group that represents “Chapter 41,” or property wealthy districts that send money back to the state through Robin Hood laws.

Seems to me both groups have strong cases. Ultimately, whatever the courts say – and nobody knows what they’ll do – it will be up to the Lege to fix it. They seem to like being ordered to take action rather than doing it themselves. They’re likely to get their chance soon.

More districts will join in school finance lawsuit

Coming soon to a courtroom near you.

School districts will throw everything short of the kitchen sink into their upcoming lawsuit against the state of Texas for shortchanging public education, a lead attorney in the case said Tuesday.

“We are going to try to cover the water front because the system is so out of whack,” school finance lawyer Randall “Buck” Wood said.

The suit, which he expects to file within the next two weeks, will claim that state leaders have created an “arbitrary, irrational and inequitable” funding system.

The suit also will claim that the state is responsible for the inequitable funding of school facilities, he said, while also alleging a violation of the state’s ban against a statewide property tax.

Nearly one-quarter of the state’s school districts are already levying the maximum $1.17 tax rate for maintenance and operations, resulting in a statewide property tax, Wood said, which the Texas Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional in a school finance case six years ago.

[…]

Per student funding in Texas now ranges from less than $5,000 per child in some school districts to more than $10,000 in others, according to the Equity Center, which represents 690 school districts.

“We believe litigation is the only way to ensure taxpayer equity and a quality education for Texas children,” said Wayne Pierce, executive director for the Equity Center.

See here and here for some background, and here (via EoW) for a press release on the matter from the Equity Center. You may recall that during the regular session, State Sen. Bob Deuell released an eye-opening list of disparities in per student revenue for school districts in each State Senate district; the exact range is from $3,732 to $12,979. I can’t wait to see the state try to argue that there’s nothing inequitable about that. The Statesman has more.

Inevitable school finance lawsuit update

Duly noted.

Superintendents from several low and medium-wealth school districts appear ready to sue the state over its school finance system as early as October. Wayne Pierce, executive director the Equity Center – a group representing 690 districts – said Wednesday that superintendents and other local leaders decided at a meeting in Austin they would seek approval to join a lawsuit challenging the finance system this fall. Legislative leaders have been expecting a suit, particularly after lawmakers slashed funding for schools by $2 billion a year in their regular session this year.

“A good number of those attending the meeting were ready to go back and present it to their school boards, to see if there is support for joining the lawsuit,” Pierce said. “We do believe a legal challenge is imminent and we’re beginning to put things together in preparation for a lawsuit.” Among the problems with the funding system that will be raised in the suit, he said, are the disparities that allow some districts to receive several thousand dollars more per student each year than other districts – a clear violation of the Texas Constitution.

It has always taken a court order for the Lege to do something about school finance. The only question is whether the next court order will get them to do something good. Electing some better legislators in the meantime would be a wise idea.