New Equity and Adequacy Suit Filed in Texas

in NEWS FROM THE ACCESS NETWORK, Texas

On October 11, 2011, the Texas Taxpayer and Student Fairness Coalition, a grouping of more than 150 school districts, students, parents and businesses, filed a wide-ranging petition against the Texas State Commissioner of Education and the State  Board of Education. The petition claims that the current system for funding public education violates the equal protection, suitability, and state property tax provisions of the state constitution. The Texas Taxpayer & Student Fairness Coalition v. Texas.

In 2005, the State Supreme Court in West Orange-Cove Consolidated ISD v. Neeley, 176 S.W.3d 746, declared the state’s funding system unconstitutional, basing its determination on the state constitution’s prohibition of a statewide property tax. At the same time, the court held that the system did not violate the state constitution’s suitable education article because students were making progress as reflected in the results of the state’s standardized tests. Plaintiffs in the present case claim that changes that the legislature made in 2006 in response to the court ruling have transformed the system largely into a hold harmless scheme that makes it impossible for school districts with low tax bases to raise funds at the same level as high tax base districts, even if they tax themselves at maximum rates, or even if they tax themselves at rates higher than those paid by residents of the affluent districts. Moreover, especially in light of the legislature’s cutting $4 billion from the school budget this year, the petition alleges that many districts are no longer able to provide all of their students with “a meaningful opportunity to acquire the essential knowledge and skills reflected in…curriculum requirements,” the standard that the Supreme Court set in its Neely ruling.

Plaintiffs seek declaratory relief and an injunction to “enjoin the state and its officials from distributing any funds, under the current school finance system until an equitable remedy is created.”

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