By Greg Moses
Texas Civil Rights Review
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund is ready to take its school funding case to the Texas Supreme Court says attorney David Hinojosa. But MALDEF is worried that the legislature is once again failing to meet several school-funding standards already set by the courts.
On Friday the Supreme Court announced that it would take probable jurisdiction of the school funding case, setting a hundred-day calendar for pre-hearing briefs. MALDEF had resisted moving the case to the Supreme Court until an Austin trial court strengthened its ruling on funding equity, but now Hinojosa says MALDEF is not expecting to hear anything more from the lower court.
“We’re ready to go forward,” said Hinojosa when contacted by telephone at his San Antonio office. “We feel we have precedent to support our case, and if the court will apply the facts to that precedent, it will rule in our favor and in favor of the children of Texas.”
Meanwhile, Hinojosa says that the legislature is trying to answer “constitutional questions with political answers” and is therefore missing an opportunity to directly address solutions that are needed.
“MALDEF would be more than pleased to assist any of these legislators to craft a finance plan that will make it possible to never, never file another lawsuit,” says Hinojosa. But he doesn’t see such a plan in the works yet.
“It seems simple to put 100 percent of Texas students inside a single equitable system that offers equitable and adequate funding for everyone,” said Hinojosa Tuesday evening. “But the legislature is answering constitutional questions with political answers, and that’s where the problems occur.”
Hinojosa says the school funding plan now being considered by the legislature would increase the total percentage of students included in a fair system. But the smaller percentage of students left out will result in more dramatic disparities between the richest and poorest districts.
“The equity gap will grow,” says Hinojosa, “giving some students so much more of an advantage. Yet these are public schools we’re talking about.”
“The legislative plan is lacking in many elements,” says Hinojosa. “It is not addressing root problems identified by the trial court, especially when it comes to the inadequacy of state funding for students who are bilingual or economically disadvantaged.”
“And this plan doesn’t even include facilities, which are grossly inadequate and grossly inefficient,” added Hinojosa. “The plan fulfills a legacy in the legislature of failing to fulfill the educational needs of the children of Texas.”