School Finance Lawsuit
Apr 7th - 6:31 pm
An overwhelming majority of Texas school districts would see more funding for students over the next two years if a House plan passes.
The chair of the House public education committee unveiled his school finance fix bill Tuesday, which would pour three billion extra dollars into classrooms. Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock said if his 13-part plan passes, he thinks the current lawsuit against the state over the way it funds public education would be dismissed.
“I think it does the right thing for kids and I think when people look at it, they’ll begin to see it,” said Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock (R – TX House District 54).
Rep. Aycock stressed the bill would increase funding for 94% of kids in the state, and would increase per-student funding to poorer districts more than it does wealthy ones.
“There’s some that are property wealthy, there’s some that are making less tax effort and then there’s that unfortunate few that we just haven’t been able to fix,” Rep. Aycock said.
Most of the plan involves boosting the so-called “basic allotment,” or formula funding. Aycock calls it the fairest of the distribution methods the state uses to divvy up dollars, and others agreed.
“Anytime the more people you have inside the formula, if the formula is done correctly, the better the system,” said Ray Freeman with the Equity Center.
For their part, AISD officials say they like what they see. AISD Board of Trustee Member Julie Cowan said, “By taking away a lot of these weights, small little measures and then putting it all into the basic allotment, it looks like AISD might receive some additional funding per student.”
Under the plan, Austin ISD, for example, would see its per-student funding levels rise 464 dollars in 2016 and 466 in 2017. But the plan to boost funding for these students faces an uphill climb with only two months left to get the Senate on board. Aycock says his committee will hear public testimony on his proposal next week.
To see how much money each school district would get in fiscal year 2016, click here.
To see how much money each school district would get in fiscal year 2017, click here.
Jan 23rd - 11:17 am
The state’s highest court will rule on whether the way Texas pays for public schools is unconstitutional. The Texas Supreme Court announced Friday it will hear the state’s sweeping school finance case.
More than 600 school districts sued the state back in 2011 after the legislature cut more than $5 billion in education funding. They argued budget cuts left them without the resources to meet academic standards, and said the gap between property-rich and property-poor school districts was too great. An Austin-based district judge ruled the cuts unconstitutional, but that ruling was appealed to the Supreme Court last year by then-Attorney General Greg Abbott.
Friday’s court advisory also set up the timeline for the next step in the case. In all, there will be about six months for both sides to file briefs and replies before a date for an oral argument is set. That means the decision won’t come until after the end of the legislative session. If the Texas Supreme Court upholds the unconstitutional ruling, the Legislature will have to come up with a new funding formula. That would require Governor Greg Abbott to call a special session.
Aug 28th - 4:26 pm
Any possible changes the Texas Legislature makes to the school finance system will happen under the watch of the next governor.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott is the current attorney general. His office represents the state in school finance litigation. Officially, his office said he would defend this law in court, just as he would any other law passed by the Legislature.
Later Thursday, his campaign released this statement:
“Our obligation is to improve education for our children rather than just doubling down on an outdated education system constructed decades ago. In my campaign for governor, I have proposed substantial improvements for our schools that will do a better job of educating Texans while spending tax dollars wisely. My plan will make Texas top-ranked in the nation for education by returning genuine local control to school districts, ensuring all children are reading and doing math at grade level by third grade, and graduating more students from high school than ever before.”
Sen. Wendy Davis is also weighing in on today’s ruling. She has long criticized the Legislature’s decision to slash $5.4 billion in school spending in 2011. In a statement Thursday, she said:
“Today is a victory for our schools, for the future of our state and for the promise of opportunity that’s at the core of who we are as Texans. The reality is clear and indefensible: insiders like Greg Abbott haven’t been working for our schools; they’ve been actively working against them. Abbott has been in court for years, defending overcrowded classrooms, teacher layoffs and public-school closings, and today, Judge John Dietz ruled against him. This ruling underscores the crucial need to invest in education and reminds us of just how much our schools, teachers and students have had to sacrifice over the past three years just to get by.”
Jun 19th - 11:39 am
The judge in the state’s school finance case has set a date to hear new evidence, based on changes the lawmakers made to education funding this legislative session.
In February, State District Judge John Dietz ruled that the way the state finances schools was unconstitutional. It was based on massive education funding cuts and stricter graduation requirements passed in 2011. Dietz also found disparities between property rich school districts and property poor districts.
The state asked the court to reopen the case based on laws passed during the current legislative session. Lawmakers elected to restore $3.4 billion in education funding and also reduced the number of standardized tests necessary for students to graduate. Lawmakers also passed a bill that creates a vocational path to graduation.
The more than 600 districts that sued in 2011 maintain the entire school funding formula is flawed and that the additional funding won’t fix the basic problem.
Dietz said Wednesday the case will go back to trial on Jan. 6th. He has scheduled six weeks of testimony to hear what the new funding means.
Jun 5th - 8:52 pm
Back to School
More questions are being raised in about the state’s school funding system.
Players from both sides of the school finance lawsuit were back in court Wednesday in an effort to get District Judge John Dietz to admit public education changes passed out of the 83rd Legislature as evidence. But many of those changes are still up in the air, pending Gov. Rick Perry’s signature — or his veto pen.
As the special session creeps slowly along, some lawmakers are holding out hope that their legislation will make it on the call.
One push in particular is gaining a lot of attention. Legislation that would have approved about $2.5 billion in tuition revenue bonds fell through in the final hours of the regular session, but backers of the bills are hopeful it will be considered during the special session.
Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson stopped by the studio to give his take on the regular session as a candidate for Lieutenant Governor. Click the logo below to see the full interview.
Jun 5th - 11:19 am
The parties involved in this year’s school finance trial were back in court Wednesday, nearly four months after District Judge John Dietz ruled that the way the state funds public education is unconstitutional.
They’ll be back in court again on June 19.
Lawyers for the state argued that new laws passed out of the 83rd Legislature should be admitted as evidence. The budget approved by both chambers would increase formula school funding by $3.4 billion and account for enrollment growth. In addition, the state is hinting that House Bill 5, which would reduce the number of standardized test and re-work graduation requirements, could also be a factor. Neither bill has been signed into law by the governor.
Judge Dietz said if all parties can agree on what new evidence to admit, he’ll sign off on it. But he warned of potential points of disagreement, including a bill to raise the statewide cap on charter schools.
Gov. Rick Perry has until June 16 to veto any bill passed by the legislature.