Even though a judge has once again declared the system Texas uses to fund its public schools is unconstitutional, the state’s attorney general is not giving up his fight.
On Sept. 26, Attorney General Greg Abbott filed an appeal with the Texas Supreme Court, challenging Judge John Dietz's Aug. 28 ruling that the way Texas pays for schools is unconstitutional, inefficient and inadequate. Dietz said the system creates a de facto statewide property tax in violation of state laws.
The judge’s decision could have brought to an end the litigation from 600 Texas school districts that sued the state after $5.4 billion was cut from the public education budget in 2011.
But Abbott says he still has a legal argument because of a clause in the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code. Section 111.003 (a)(2) of the code states that without legislative approval, the attorney general may not settle a claim that could increase expenditure of state funds.
Abbott decided to appeal directly to the Texas Supreme Court.
Opponents say there is no “settlement,” so Abbott should let the Legislature handle the issue.
Linda Bridges, president of the Texas branch of the American Federation of Teachers, echoed that position. "Make no mistake," she said, "Attorney General Abbott is under no legal compulsion to continue defending the indefensible. ... As the state's top lawyer he has the authority to decide when to pull the plug on a weak case like this."
Texas State Teachers Association President Noel Candelaria agreed.
"By filing this appeal, Abbott made it very clear that he is willing to make five million Texas students wait another year or more for the resources crucial to their success," said Candelaria.
"We demand that Abbott quit wasting tax dollars and drop an appeal that robs our children of the opportunity guaranteed them by our great state. Legislators should begin working now on a fair and legal school funding plan that can be enacted during next year's session.”
Abbott, in addition to currently serving as attorney general, is also the Republican candidate for governor of Texas. His Democratic opponent, state Sen. Wendy Davis, said by continuing the fight, Abbott is continuing to keep school districts underfunded and overcrowded.
“By refusing to drop this appeal, Greg Abbott is actively working to shortchange our kids, their education and the future of this state,” Davis said in a prepared statement.