Texas Students Win, Greg Abbott Loses: School Finance Funding Unconstitutional

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The long-awaited ruling over the 2011 Republican Legislature's $5.4 billion cuts to public education came out today, and Texas students and teachers were victorious.

Judge John Dietz ruled the school funding scheme unconstitutional because it failed to adequately provide for students' needs and provide equal opportunity.

The ruling is a direct blow to Attorney General Greg Abbott, whose office defended the cuts in the courts. He could have ended the case at any time, and instead waited for today's decision to come down. Abbott can now appeal the decision to the Republican State Supreme Court.

The Statesman has a good breakdown on the ruling:

    Dietz found four constitutional problems with the way Texas finances its schools:

    * The Legislature has failed to suitably provide for Texas public schools because the school finance system “cannot provide a constitutionally adequate education for all Texans,” Dietz said in his order.

    * The finance system is inadequate because it does not provide enough money to accomplish a “general diffusion of knowledge.

    * The system effectively imposes a property tax, in violation of the Texas Constitution, because districts do not have “meaningful discretion” over how the taxes are raised, assessed or spent.
    * The system is financially inefficient because all Texas students do not have equal access to the educational money needed.

The ruling is a smack-down of Greg Abbott's efforts to defend $5.4 billion in cuts to public schools — cuts that Wendy Davis filibustered and would have vetoed as Governor.

Thanks to Senators Wendy Davis and Sylvia Garcia voting against the initial state budget in the Senate, and a committed group of Democratic legislators in the House, the state restored $3.7 billion of the cut funds in 2013. However, Texas has not kept pace with funding enrollment growth, and our students and teachers are suffering.

The 2015 Legislature will have to give serious thought to how they plan to address funding needs in education, water, and infrastructure. As we posted earlier today, even Republicans are starting to admit that they're not up to the task.

Wendy Davis released the following statement on the ruling:

“Today is a victory for our schools, for the future of our state and for the promise of opportunity that's at the core of who we are as Texans. The reality is clear and indefensible: insiders like Greg Abbott haven't been working for our schools; they've been actively working against them. Abbott has been in court for years, defending overcrowded classrooms, teacher layoffs and public-school closings, and today, Judge John Dietz ruled against him. This ruling underscores the crucial need to invest in education and reminds us of just how much our schools, teachers and students have had to sacrifice over the past three years just to get by.”

 

TL, DR: Students: 1; Greg Abbott: 0.

About Author

Katherine Haenschen

Katherine Haenschen is a PhD candidate at the University of Texas, where she studies political participation on digital media. She has previously managed successful candidate, issue, voter registration, and GOTV campaigns in Austin. In addition to serving as the president of Austin Young Democrats, she is also UCONN's #1 fan in Texas.

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