Law & Courts

Districts Sue Over School Texas School Funding System

By Sean Cavanagh — December 14, 2011 1 min read
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A group of school districts and parents have sued to force changes to Texas’ school funding system, arguing that it is unfair to poor school systems and English-language learners.

The legal action is the latest court challenge to Texas’ model for paying for K-12 education, which has come under renewed criticism in the wake of deep and historic cuts in school funding approved by state lawmakers and Gov. Rick Perry this year.

The lawsuit is supported by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, or MALDEF, which advocates for Latino communities and has made previous arguments against the state’s funding system.

The Edgewood Independent School District, the McAllen Independent School District, the San Benito Consolidated Independent School District, and La Feria Independent School District, as well as numerous individuals, are named as plaintiffs in the suit. They claim the state’s funding system is inequitable, violates the state’s constitution, and forces impoverished districts to tax at higher rates than affluent ones.

The suit also contends that the system is unfair to English-language learners and low-income students, by failing to provide them with adequate resources.

Earlier this month, a different set of districts—wealthy ones—also sued the state over its school finance system, calling it unfair and unconstitutional. Those districts say that because so many school systems are taxing at the maximum state-imposed level, Texas officials are essentially imposing a statewide property tax, and usurping local authority.

This year, Texas legislators changed state law so they could provide schools with $4 billion less over a two-year budget than they would have otherwise been required to receive. The loss of funding has led to job losses and other cutbacks in school districts, as well as increased class sizes, by one recent estimate.

Three school-finance lawsuits have been filed so far in Texas to challenge the state’s funding system, according to the Texas Association of School Boards.

The Lone Star state isn’t the only setting for a court fight over school funding.

A Colorado judge recently found that the state’s education funding system violates the state’s constitution. With many states having made sizeable cuts in K-12 spending over the past couple years, don’t be suprised to see similar battles playing out in other venues, too.

A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.