A state district judge in Austin ruled today that the current method of funding Texas public school is unconstitutional, Newsradio 1200 WOAI reports.
State district Judge John Dietz ruled that the cuts made by the Legislature in the 2011 session pushed the level of funding for public education below constitutionally allowed limits, despite the fact that much of the money was returned to the budget in 2013.
"It is unfortunate that school districts have to sue the State of Texas to force the Legislature to carry out its constitutional obligations, said Gary Godsey, Executive Director of the Association of Texas Professional Educators.
Godsey pointed out that despite the fact that 200,000 more students have been added to the state's public schools since 2011, there are actually fewer teachers in the schools today than there were three years ago.
Judge Dietz blasted a system of funding schools which is 'heavily dependent upon property taxes,' ruling that such a system automatically guarantees that some districts will automatically have less money than other for what the constitution supposes will be an equal education.
Dietz also took aim at the property tax system itself, saying 'the Texas school finance system effectively imposes a state property tax in violation of the Texas constitution, because school districts do not have meaningfully discretion over the levy, assessment, and disbursement of local property taxes.'
This is the third time that a court has declares the way Texas funds schools to be unconstitutional, dating back to the landmark Edgewood decision in 1987.
"The Plaintiffs have shows that the costs of providing a general diffusion of knowledge to economically disadvantaged and English Language Learner students exceed the funding provided through the current system," Dietz wrote in his ruling.
The Fairness Coalition, which represents more than 400 of the state's 1044 ISD's, applauded the ruling.
"I am delighted with Judge Dietz' ruling,” said Rick Grey, lead attorney for the Coalition. "It is my hope that the Legislature will once and for all permanently fix the school finance system such that all school districts will be provided adequate and equitable funding in order to provide all Texas school children the education necessary to become college and career ready."
The state is expected to appeal the ruling, which could force the Legislature to make major changes in the state's tax code in 2015, and there is already talk of a state income tax being necessary to deal with the inequity issue.