Judge Dietz Again Rules Texas School Finance System Unconstitutional
In a 21-page Final Judgment, State District Judge John Dietz declared the Texas school finance system "constitutionally inadequate, unsuitable, and financially inefficient" and ordered that further funding stop "under the system until the constitutional infirmities are corrected."
This decision comes 18 months after his original February 2013 ruling in favor of school districts. Dietz reopened the case to reconsider evidence after lawmakers provided partial restoration of state funding to school districts and made significant changes to the state's testing and graduation requirements in the 83rd Legislative Session.
The specific findings of the court are as follows:
"[T]he 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."
An appeal of the decision is expected.
Commissioner of Education Michael Williams said, "Today's decision is just a first step on a very familiar path for school finance litigation in Texas. Regardless of the ruling at the district court level, all sides have known this is an issue that will again be resolved by the Texas Supreme Court. Texas is committed to finding solutions to educate every student in every classroom. However, it should be our state leaders making those decisions, not a single judge."