Judge John Dietz has – again - ruled that the way that the state funds its public education system is unconstitutional, and doubly so.
This is round two for Judge Dietz who is no novice when it comes to inadequate school funding. In 2004 he ruled in a case brought by 300 school districts that the state’s education funding system was unconstitutional and inefficient, and ordered the state to halt school spending in October 2005 if problems aren't fixed.
The state legislature responded by cuts local school property taxes by one-third while allocating more state funding. To prevent revenue loss, they placed minimum funding requirements on districts based on a “temporary freeze” in the amount of money districts spent per student that year. The temporary freeze was never lifted, however. In addition the Legislature capped tax rates at $1.17 per $100 of property valuation and allowed each district to choose how much to levy in taxes.
Then the legislature, in 2011, slashed the funds that the state provided by $5.6 billion while at the same time passing new standardized testing standards that raised the bar on what every public school student must do in order to graduate.
To this, Judge Dietz had some choice words in today’s ruling:
“There is no free lunch. We either want increased standards and are willing to pay the price, or we don't.”
In today’s ruling, Judge Dietz ruled the funding system unconstitutional on two fronts: it does not provide adequate funding for “general diffusion of knowledge” as required in the state’s constitution, and that the funding system was a de facto income tax, which is forbidden by the constitution.
A written ruling will be issued within a month, but nothing is going to happen on this one until the all-Republican state supreme court gets a chance to rule, and that won’t happen during this legislative session.
Because as you know, there’s no hurry. When it comes to raising revenue for public school education in Texas there is never a need to hurry.