Texas School Finance System Unconstitutional – Again

Judge Dietz's long awaited ruling was issued today confirming that the state's school funding system is unconstitutional.  It looks like the Plaintiffs won on all major counts.  The ruling says the funding is unconstitutional in four ways:

  • The system effectively imposes an unconstitutional state property tax
  • The legislature failed to meet its constitutional duty to provide a constitutionally adequate education for all Texas school children
  • The system has not accomplished a general diffusion of knowledge for all students
  • All Texas students do not have substantially equal access to funding

Here is an excerpt from the Dietz's Final Judgment:

Based upon the competent evidence admitted  at trial (both the main trial and upon the reopening of evidence), the arguments of counsel, and this Court's contemporaneously-entered Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law (incorporated herein  by reference), the Court  finds that the Texas school finance system effectively imposes a state property  tax  in  violation  of Article VIII, Section 1-e of the Texas Constitution because school districts do not have meaningful discretion over the levy, assessment, and disbursement of local property taxes. The Court further finds that the Legislature has failed to meet its constitutional  duty  to  suitably provide for Texas public schools because the school finance system is structured, operated, and funded   so   that   it   cannot   provide   a   constitutionally   adequate   education   for   all   Texas schoolchildren.

Further, the school finance system is constitutionally  inadequate  because  it cannot accomplish, and has not accomplished, a general diffusion of knowledge for all students due to insufficient funding. Finally, the school finance system is financially inefficient because all Texas students do not have substantially equal access to the educational funds necessary to accomplish a general diffusion of knowledge. Consequently, the Court enjoins further funding under the system until the constitutional infirmities are corrected.

The unconstitutional ruling has been anticipated for months after Dietz intially ruled the system unconstitutional from the bench months ago, but delayed his written opinion until after the last legislative session.  He then re-opened the case for additional testimony and filings to take into account legislative actions in 2013.

You can read more details in the Texas Tribune article Judge: Texas School Finance System Unconstitutional.  The article includes links directly to the Final Judgement and the Findings of Fact and Conclusion of Law.

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