Suit Challenges Texas Public School Funding

Marion Herbert's picture
Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Texas school districts and parents are headed back to the courthouse in another effort to get more equitable funding for public schools.

A coalition representing public school districts, taxpayers and parents filed a lawsuit against the state in Travis County district court Monday. The Texas Taxpayer & Student Fairness Coalition claims the state's public school finance system is unconstitutional because it does not treat Texas taxpayers and schoolchildren fairly.

Taxpayers in 546 school districts could impose the maximum $1.17 tax rate to support their local schools and not come close to generating the same revenue that wealthier school districts get at a $1.04 rate, according to the suit. For example, Fort Worth and Austin independent school districts have roughly the same number of students, but the Austin district gets about $100 million more a year than Fort Worth, even with identical tax rates.

"It's not equitable. It's not fair. It's just crazy," said Austin lawyer Rick Gray, lead lawyer for the plaintiffs, which include 150 school districts. He said he expects many districts, taxpayers, parents and business owners to join the litigation.

Several Houston-area school districts are planning to join a separate lawsuit in coming weeks. Trustees of the Fort Bend Independent School District were the first large district in the area to confirm their intent, voting Monday to authorize a legal challenge against the state's school funding system. Members of the Houston ISD board are planning to discuss possible legal options Thursday, according to a spokesman.

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