Even before recently enacted cuts of $5.4 billion in state aid to school districts, state spending for public education in Texas ranked near the bottom of national state-by-state rankings. As the new cuts strike home, school boards all over the state are passing resolutions committing their school districts to participate in a major new challenge to the constitutionality of the whole state system of school finance.
The legal challenge, spearheaded by the research and advocacy team at the Austin-based Equity Center, will attack the legislature’s school-finance actions on multiple fronts. For instance, districts by law are supposed to receive substantially equal revenue at similar tax rates. Yet gaps in funding of $1,500 per pupil are common, and the state is highly vulnerable on this equity front. The courts also have held that the state must ensure enough funding to provide all students with a “meaningful opportunity to acquire the essential knowledge and skills” called for in state curriculum standards. Especially in the wake of the funding cuts enacted this year, the state appears vulnerable on this issue of adequacy as well.
The lawsuit reportedly could be filed quite soon, within a matter of weeks. Another lawsuit challenging the state school-finance scheme may be filed as well, by a different constellation of school districts, with a primary focus on the adequacy issue.