Texas school finance system is constitutional, court rules

Texas school finance system is constitutional, court rules

State Supreme Court says formula for distributing aid is flawed, but meets constitutional requirements.

The Texas Supreme Court has upheld the state’s public school funding system as constitutional, but urged state lawmakers to pursue reforms and "upend an ossified regime ill-suited for 21st-century Texas."

The Texas Tribune reports that the ruling is the second time the court has upheld the state’s school finance system. Since the 1980s, various school districts have repeatedly sued the state over public education funding and have often prevailed.

The latest case, brought by more than two-thirds of Texas school districts, is the seventh time such a case has reached the state Supreme Court.

"Our Byzantine school funding 'system' is undeniably imperfect, with immense room for improvement," Justice Don Willett wrote in a 100-page opinion. "But it satisfies minimum constitutional requirements. Accordingly, we decline to usurp legislative authority by issuing reform diktats from on high, supplanting lawmakers’ policy wisdom with our own."

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton called the judges' ruling "a major victory for the people of Texas, who have faced an endless parade of lawsuits following any attempt to finance schools in the state.”

"We have said all along that school financing must be debated and shaped by the Texas Legislature, not through decades’ worth of ongoing litigation in the court system," Paxton said.

The Equity Center, which represented more than 440 low- and medium-wealth school districts in the case, said in a statement that although the funding formula was deemed constitutional, it still is "undeniably broken."

"Whether judged constitutional by this Court or not, the system must be changed," the Center says. "The future of Texas public education now rests in the hands of the Texas Legislature. It is our greatest hope that they will accept the responsibility to do what the Court has not­­—stand up for all Texas children and taxpayers.

 

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