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Texas Tackles School Finance Again

by Ken Parsons, Senior Vice President, October 2015

 

Property taxes fund Texas public schools and once again, a lawsuit is being heard over whether the system needs reform.

 

This is the sixth school funding lawsuit filed since the mid-1980s. However, this could be the decisive ruling because the issue is now before the Texas Supreme Court, not a state district court.

 

Past Rulings

 

The most recent ruling on school funding in Texas was in August 2014. At that time, State District Judge John Dietz sided with the plaintiffs.

 

"The court finds that the Legislature has failed to meet its constitutional duty to suitably provide for Texas public schools because the school finance system is structured, operated, and funded so that it cannot provide a constitutionally adequate education for all Texas schoolchildren," Dietz ruled.

 

Dietz was the same judge who heard the previous school finance lawsuit and ruled in favor of the school districts in 2013.

 

The Fix

 

No one is predicting how long the current trial will last but analysts believe the ruling could come by January.

 

If the ruling is against the State and the court orders immediate remedies, Governor Greg Abbott could call lawmakers back for a special session next spring. The idea of a special legislative session for school finance carries a precedent. In the 2005-2006 legislative cycle, former Governor Rick Perry called three special sessions on school finance.

 

Another option is that the court may rule against the State and not order immediate action. Representative Drew Springer explained that "the court may order the Legislature to study the issue and have legislation ready to pass in the 85th Session in 2017, which would not require a special legislative session."