Judge Rules Texas School Finance System Unconstitutional 8/28/14
State District Judge John Dietz ruled August 28 that the system Texas uses to fund public education is unconstitutional. The ruling came after the judge re-opened the trial to consider new evidence related to 2013 legislative action. The trial brought by hundreds of Texas school districts, including RISD, against the state of Texas began in October of 2012. Judge Dietz held that the school finance system has evolved into an unconstitutional state property tax and that the system fails to provide the plaintiff districts access to enough funding to provide a constitutionally adequate education.
"We applaud Judge Dietz's ruling, which is a victory for students, parents and educators," said RISD Superintendent Dr. Kay Waggoner. "It is the critical first step in bringing adequate funding to all Texas school districts." The ruling is widely expected to be appealed by the state of Texas, eventually or directly to the Texas Supreme Court.
Mark Trachtenberg, a partner with Haynes and Boone, LLP, and one of the attorneys representing the group of school districts that includes RISD, said at the time of the initial ruling "Judge Dietz's ruling is the first step in an important process. While we expect that the Texas Supreme Court will ultimately have its say, there is no reason why the Legislature has to wait on the appeals process before addressing the constitutional deficiencies in the system. Because of statutory mandates, rising academic standards, and declining state funding, districts have lost meaningful discretion over their local property tax rates and have no opportunity to provide enrichment programming desired by their local communities."