Dietz: Texas school funding system unconstitutional

By Marilyn Tennissen | Feb 4, 2013

The system used by the state of Texas to fund its public schools is unconstitutional, a federal judge in Austin declared Monday.

U.S. District Judge John Dietz ruled that the state Legislature had effectively imposed a statewide property tax in violation of the Texas Constitution.

Dietz said that the state does not adequately or efficiently fund public schools and that it has created an unconstitutional de-facto property tax in shifting the burden of paying for them to the local level.

He also found there was a gap in the funding between wealthy districts and poorer ones, and that the state failed to provide resources to prepare students for the new standardized tests.

More than 600 school districts -- almost two-thirds of the districts in Texas -- sued the state claiming the Legislature failed to live up to its duty to provide an “efficient system of public free schools.”

The districts sued after lawmakers cut $5.4 billion from the budget. At the same time, the state instituted a rigorous new student assessment and accountability system.

The case went to trial in Dietz’s court on Oct. 22.

After 12 weeks of testimony, Dietz upheld all the major claims by the school districts.

“All sides have known that, regardless of the outcome at the district level, final resolution will not come until this case reaches the Texas Supreme Court," said Texas Education Agency Commissioner Michael Williams in a statement.

"I’m appreciative of the strong case presented by the Attorney General’s Office on behalf of the state. The Texas Education Agency will continue to carry out its mission of serving the students and educators across our state.”

According to the Texas Tribune, Dietz said to the packed courtroom that a well-educated population lowers crime rates, decreases the need for public assistance and increases the state income.

"We realize that others provided for us when we were children. We realize that children are without means to secure their education. Just as others provided for us when we were in school, now is the time when we provide for others," Dietz said.

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