Wayne Rotan: School finance litigation takes a step forward

WayneRotan2010On Monday, February 4, 2013, the Honorable Judge John K. Dietz, ruled the current system of Texas school finance is unconstitutional. Six lawsuits, representing over 600 school districts were filed against the Texas School Finance System.

The six lawsuits were:

  1. Texas Taxpayer and Student Fairness Coalition – representing more than 400 school districts with mid to low property wealth.
  2. Fort Bend ISD et. al. – representing 80 school districts
  3. Calhoun County et. al. – representing over 90 districts with high property wealth
  4. Mexican American Legal Defense Fund (MALDEF) – representing districts with high percentages of English Language Learners
  5. Texas Charter Schools
  6. Texas Association for Real Efficiency and Equity in Education

All suits were consolidated into one lawsuit and testimony began in October 2012.

Glen Rose ISD was one of the 90-plus districts supporting the Calhoun County et. al. suit. The claims of the Calhoun County et. al. group were 1) Adequacy – the state was not adequately funding public education, and 2) the current system was a statewide property tax.

Judge Dietz issued a ruling from the bench at the conclusion of oral arguments on February 4, 2013.  An omnibus written ruling is expected to be released in the next four to six weeks.  In his bench ruling, Judge Dietz concluded that the current system of school finance is unconstitutional.  He ruled in favor of the Calhoun County et. al. on both the adequacy claim and the statewide property tax claim.

His ruling stated that schools were not adequately funded to meet current standards suitable for the general diffusion of knowledge and school districts are legally or practically unable to raise revenues at a higher rate than they currently have. Judge Dietz ruled against charter schools seeking facilities funding and the Texans for Real Efficiency and Equity in Education.

Where do we go from here?  This is a very first important step in what will be a long process.  After the written decision is released in four to six weeks, it is likely the ruling will be appealed by the state to the State Supreme Court.  A final ruling from the State Supreme Court would probably be issued in the summer of 2014 and the legislature would have to convene in special session to address the court ruling.

For additional information regarding school finance and school finance litigation, please refer to my December 2012 article.  This article addressed the history of school finance, litigation and impact on Glen Rose ISD.

In addition, the 83rd Texas Legislative Session is underway.  Many bills have been filed in regards to public education.  Several bills have also been filed to reduce the amount of standardized testing, remove the 4 x 4 graduation requirements in favor of a career and college readiness pathway track, eliminate the 15% final grade requirement on End of Course testing.  As the session progresses, I will update the parents and community on issues that will impact Glen Rose ISD.

Thank you for your continued support of Glen Rose ISD!

Wayne Rotan is the superintendent of the Glen Rose Independent School District. 



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