Wednesday, September 28, 2011

ISDs Flocking to Join in School Finance Lawsuit

Here in Texas, where schools have purposely been shorted to the tune of $4 billion this year, school districts are resorting to the courts to gain what they are constitutionally guaranteed, funding that is adequate to educate its schoolchildren.

Back in August, it was announced that a lawsuit would be filed. And today I hear that we are close to filing a lawsuit, within two weeks from now, but the effort now is to get school districts to join in the suit. About a hundred have to-date.

The lawsuit will complain that the Texas legislature failed to adequately fund Texas’ public schools, a gross violation of the state constitution. It will also complain about the inequitable distribution of funds between the districts.

The school financing scheme is doubly in violation of the state constitution in that it forbids a statewide tax on property, something that is happening de facto. In response to the legislature cutting school district tax rates to $1.17 per hundred dollars of assessed value, every district in the state charges this maximum. The result is a uniform state property tax, which is illegal.

In 2006 the courts ruled that the state’s school finance law was unconstitutional, forcing the legislature to revise its scheme. So we are due for a repeat performance.

Perhaps this is the only way we can get legislators off their collective behinds and fund public education. It they can go to their constituents and say that they had no choice but to raise revenues because the court ordered them, can they be blamed?

But my guess is that their constituents, by that time will be so tired of being nickel and dimed by their school districts, and having to buy stuff that was once free, and having to outfit classrooms with school supplies that were once provided by the district, they probably won’t give a rip about revenues being raised.

A “free education,” after all, isn’t free.

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