Texas School Funding Deemed Unconstitutional


Natalia Alamdari, Editor-in-Chief

Texas Supreme Court judge John Dietz ruled state funding of schools to be unconstitutional Feb. 4. According to the ruling, the state does not provide enough funding for schools and does not fairly distribute money among districts. The coalition of 675 school districts, both rich and poor, celebrated the victory, including Klein ISD.

Texas does not have a state income tax, meaning schools are funded by property taxes. Under the Robin Hood plan enacted in 1993, more affluent districts were required to share resources with underprivileged districts. Also, the state currently limits how much districts may raise taxes, which has been deemed unconstitutional. Dietz’s ruling reasoned that in order to fulfill state mandates, districts have reached their taxing limit, and that they “no longer have meaningful discretion in setting their tax rates.” Many districts have gone so far as to reach the limit set by the Legislature, taxing $1.17 per every $100 in property value, therefore lacking any other method of raising funds.

The main concern of the districts spurned from this need to raise funds. In the past two years the state has cut $5.4 billion in school funding. The districts argued that they were being asked to reach a very high academic standard, but were not receiving the proper funding needed to achieve such goals. The districts also believe that the state has enough money to properly fund school districts equally.
Opposition to the ruling made the statement that districts do have enough funding, but are not managing it properly, saying that schools need to sort out their priorities when it comes to spending. In addition, the state pointed out that even with the cuts in spending, statewide test scores have not fallen.
With talk of an appeal, it could be years before the issue is resolved by the Texas Supreme Court. Dietz’s ruling only stated the constitutionality of funding, but provided no solutions. This is the sixth lawsuit concerning school funding in state since the 1980’s. Dietz made a similar ruling regarding funding in 2004.