Texas School Finance System Ruled Unconstitutional!

February 4, 2013

For more than three years I have been a consultant with the Equity Center, a consortium of property-poor school districts in Texas.  Once they made the decision to file suit against the state, yet again, for its inadequate and inequitable system, they asked me to write another policy paper on why money matters to schools.  The paper would have two audiences–one the court, and the other being legislators, school board members, superintendents, and other interested citizens.  The plan was to submit it as an exhibit in the school finance trial.

So, of course, I had to be deposed–mainly by the state, but also the attorneys of the other parties could ask me questions as well.  My deposition lasted more than 10 hours, and almost all of it was responding to the state’s questions.

In the introduction of my paper I declared the state’s school finance system to be “unconstitutional.”  And early in the deposition, the state’s attorney took me to task for saying that–asserting that I was unqualified to make that judgment since I was not an expert on the Texas Constitution.  I admitted that I was not an attorney, nor an expert in Texas law.  However, I told her that I had taken three graduate courses in Texas school finance.  I had read and studied the previous court rulings of the many times Texas schools have had to go to court to get necessary funding, and I had read many expert opinions about what constitutes an adequate and equitable system.  So I had that background in making the statement I made.  She sneered at me.

Today, Judge Dietz of Austin declared the Texas school finance system to be unconstitutional since it is inadequate and inequitable and since the taxing system is a statewide property tax, forbidden by the Constitutiton.

I am joyous!  But not just to be have been right!  I am joyous that we now have a ruling that forces Texans to examine the accountability of the Governor and the Legislature.

The ruling today declared them to be “UNACCEPTABLE”!  If they cared about Texas kids, if they cared about education, if they cared about Texas’s future, if they cared about democracy, they would NOT appeal this ruling.  They would, instead, go to work immediately to correct the system and create a world-class education system in our state.  But no, Michael Williams, the TEA Commissioner who in olden days was an active advocate for Texas kids, immediately told the press that the state would appeal and not to get too excited about today’s ruling.

I hope to live long enough when we do what is right for kids without it being an ideological war to provide them with what they need to be successful adults, including a great education!

I hope that everyone who reads this page will think about where you stand, and if you stand with Texas Kids Can’t Wait, you will call/write your legislators and the governor and ask them to act now to implement Judge Dietz’s ruling.  Texas cannot be allowed to rank 49th in the nation in per-student expenditures for education (2009).  Every Texas child’s future is at stake.  The money is there!  What we lack is political will!

You and I can change that!  –by Bonnie Lesley

 

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