Published Online: October 18, 2011
Published in Print: October 19, 2011, as Districts Sue Texas Over Aid Formula

Policy Brief

Districts Sue Texas Over Aid Formula

A coalition of more than 150 Texas school districts has sued the state over a school funding system it says is unfair, inefficient, and unconstitutional.

The coalition represents more than one in 10 Texas districts. It accuses lawmakers of ignoring the state’s troubled school financing system for years and exacerbating the flaws this summer when they slashed public school spending by more than $4 billion to close a massive budget gap.

“As a result of that action, ... there’s really just no other option for schools at this point,” said Lauren Cook, a spokeswoman for the Austin-based Equity Center, which organized the lawsuit, filed Oct. 10.

The Texas Education Agency and the Texas comptroller are among the defendants named in the lawsuit. Republican Gov. Rick Perry, who is running for president and signed the state budget that included the education cuts, is not.

Debbie Ratcliffe, a spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency, said the agency was still reviewing the lawsuit. “Obviously, this is an issue that the courts and the legislature will ultimately have to resolve,” she said.

The lawsuit was filed by the Texas Taxpayer and Student Fairness Coalition, which represents more than 150 of Texas’ more than 1,100 school districts. Along with the coalition, seven school districts, two taxpayers, and a parent are named as plaintiffs.

The complaint is based on a 2006 school finance overhaul, which included a provision that froze state aid to some districts without allowing for the costs of changing demographics or inflation. It was intended to keep wealthier school districts from taking a hit in the amount of state aid they receive under revised funding formulas.

But the overhaul “gave property-wealthy districts unconstitutionally greater access to educational dollars,” the lawsuit says.

Ms. Cook said plaintiffs hope a trial court rules before lawmakers meet for the legislative session in 2013.

The individual districts that brought the suit were Hillsboro, Hutto, Nacogdoches, Pflugerville, San Antonio, Taylor, and Van.

Vol. 31, Issue 08, Page 17

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