Massive School Funding Trial Begins in Texas

Last Updated: October 29, 2012

This article appeared in the October 2012 Rural Policy Matters.

Editor's note: Links are free and current at time of posting, but may require registration or expire over time.

Six lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the Texas school finance system have been combined in a court case that began earlier this month.

The six groups include four different coalitions of school districts. Three of the lawsuits charge that the current finance formula is inadequate and/or inequitable. The fourth, brought by wealthy school districts, charges that the state funding is inadequate. Those districts benefitted when the state cut property taxes in 2006, replaced local reductions with state funding, and froze spending levels for districts.

Last year the state reduced funding to public education by $5.4 billion. Plaintiffs allege that funding cuts were implemented as state requirements and student population were increasing. In addition, poorer districts charge the freeze, which has not been lifted, locked them into inadequate spending levels and perpetuated inequities. Funding now ranges from about $4,000 to more than $12,000 per student.

The state defendants claim funding is not at a crisis level and that shortcomings are the result of failures at the local district level. A representative of the Attorney General’s office pointed to funding for extracurricular activities, sports, technology, and buildings as examples of unnecessary expenditures. The representative also said districts were spending inefficiently by raising salaries for teachers who stay on the job rather than tying salaries to “merit.”

Of the two remaining lawsuits one represents charter schools seeking funding for facilities. The other, brought by Texans for Real Efficiency and Equity in Education, claims that public schools have a monopoly on education that leads to unconstitutional inefficiencies.

Student population in Texas has been increasing by 80,000 students each year, even as funding has been cut. Sixty percent of Texas students now receive free or reduced-price lunches at school, and one in five students are English Language Learners.

Former state demographer Steven Murdock testified that without investment in education for low-income students and students learning English, per capita income and related taxes would decline significantly. “How well minority populations do in Texas is how well Texas will do," he said.

You can read previous RSFN coverage here.

Read more:


Read more from the October 2012 Rural Policy Matters.