Excerpts: Texas School Funding Docs

A key question in the school funding trial revolved around the definition of an

adequate education, with state’s attorneys arguing that minimal funds could only be demanded for a

narrow range of instructional purposes. In the following Conclusion of Law, Texas District Judge John

Dietz says that education is a more expansive concept:

(COL 10) This Court rejects

the notion that the general diffusion of knowledge requires expenditures only in the instructional

program described in Section 39.023 of the Education Code and that other expenditures are merely

“extraneous.” A district cannot provide a constitutionally adequate education without a sufficient

support network, which may include, but is not limited to, (a) adequate and well-maintained facilities;

(b) remedial and literacy programs to help Limited English proficiency, economically disadvantaged, and

other special needs students, (c) sufficient numbers of qualified teachers; (d) small class sizes, (e)

preschool programs to give a “head start” to special needs students; (f) dropout prevention programs;

(g) extracurricular activities to keep students in school and assist them with getting into colleges;

(h) nurses to keep students healthy; (i) security guards in certain schools to keep students safe; and

(j) guidance counselors to help students with course selection and with planning for college or

careers.

More key excerpts at “Read More” below.

What

does it mean to have enough local money or “meaningful discretion” in a school budget? For Judge

Dietz, it means that local districts can dedicate ten percent of their available tax revenues toward

“enrichment.”

(COL 14) The Texas Supreme Court has held that a district must have

“meaningful discretion” in setting its property tax rates for a local ad valorem tax to remain

constitutional under Article VIII, section 1-e of the Texas Constitution. The Court concludes that a

district has meaningful discretion only when it can devote, at a minimum, 10% of its taxing capacity,

or approximately 15 cents of tax effort to raise additional revenues to enrich its programs beyond what

is required to provide a “general diffusion of knowledge” and comply with state and federal

mandates.

Adding together the broad definition of education and the ten percent

test for “enrichment” funding, Judge Dietz rules that schools cannot systematically raise enough

money under the tax limit imposed by the state of $1.50 per $100 of taxable

property.

(COL 17) Because the West Orange Cove Plaintiffs have also

established a systemic/statewide violation, this Court declares that the Texas school finance system is

presently in violation of Article VIII, section 1-e of the Texas Constitution

(COL 20)

Because the West Orange Cove Plaintiffs have established that the school finance system fails to

recognize or cover the costs of meeting the constitutional mandate of adequacy, or the Legislature’s

statutory definition of a comprehensive adequate program, this Court declares that the State’s school

finance system is financially inefficient, inadequate and unsuitable, in violation of Article VII,

section 1 of the Texas Constitution.

“Robin Hood”

lives.

(COL 22) The disparate property values among Texas public school

districts, coupled with the State’s continued reliance on local property taxes for the majority of

funding for the Texas school finance system, requires the State to maintain equalization provisions

similar to those at present, in order to ensure an efficient system among public free

schools.

In fact “Robin Hood” needs to do a better job equalizing funds,

especially to pay for facilities.

(COL 23) The prohibition on the use of Tier 2

funds for facilities, combined with the Legislature’s failure to make the IFA and/or EDA programs

statutorily permanent and the Legislature’s inadequate funding of the IFA program, means that property

-poor districts do not have substantially equal access to facilities funding in violation of the

efficiency and suitability provisions of article VII § 1 of the Texas

Constitution.

And the state needs to increase its financial support for districts

that serve bilingual, impoverished, and other special needs students.

(COL 24)

The current funding capacity of the Texas school finance system fails to provide Intervenor districts

with sufficient access to revenue to provide for a general diffusion of knowledge to their students, in

violation of the efficiency, suitability and adequacy provisions of Article VII § 1 of the Texas

Constitution, particularly when taking into account (1) the inadequacy of the weight adjustments for

bilingual, economically disadvantaged, and other special needs students and (2) the greater burden

borne by Intervenor districts of the inadequacy of those weights, given their student populations,

which are disproportionately LEP and economically disadvantaged.

The Legislature

has until Oct. 1, 2005 to fix the system.

1. In addition to the declaratory

relief described … above, this Court hereby enjoins the State Defendants from giving any force and

effect to the sections of the Education Code relating to the financing of public school education

(Chapters 41 and 42 of the Education Code) and from distributing any money under the current Texas

school financing system until the constitutional violations are remedied. The effect of this

injunction shall be stayed until October 1, 2005, in order to give the Legislature a reasonable

opportunity to cure the constitutional deficiencies in the finance system before the foregoing

prohibitions take effect.

Posted at IndyMedia Houston / Austin / North Texas
/
LA / NYC

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