The Texas Supreme Court ruled Nov. 22 that even though the state’s property-tax-based school aid system is unconstitutional, the state provides enough money to schools to be considered adequate under the state constitution.
In a long-awaited ruling addressing a case that consolidated three separate suits, the state’s highest court ordered the state to refrain from enforcing a cap on local property taxes and gave the legislature until June 1 to change the system. But the court also ruled that the state doesn’t have to increase funding for schools.
“The public education system need not operate perfectly,” Justice Nathan L. Hecht wrote in a 7-1 opinion released Nov. 22. “It is adequate if districts are reasonably able to provide their students the access and opportunity the district court described.”
The statewide cap on property taxes forces some districts to limit the amount of money they spend on their students, and thus a state-controlled property tax, a violation of the state constitution, Justice Hecht added.
In Neeley v. West Orange-Clover Consolidated Independent School District, three separate sets of plaintiffs tried to change Texas’ complicated school aid system, which caps the amount districts may raise from property taxes and requires more-affluent districts to share revenue with poorer ones. In the regular legislative session and two special sessions earlier this year, the legislature failed to fix the finance system.