More Than 150 Texas School Districts Sue State Over Billions in "Unconstitutional" Cuts

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While we await official confirmation from the Dallas Independent School District concerning a well-respected higher-up who was let go yesterday, there's this. As expected, the Austin-based nonprofit The Equity Center ("founded in 1982 by 55 school districts as a response to the gross inequities that existed in the state's school finance system") has at last sued state Commissioner of Education Robert Scott, Texas Comptroller Susan Combs and the Texas State Board of Education over the $4 billion the Legislature carved out of public education over the summer. The suit was actually brought by the Texas Taxpayer & Student Fairness Coalition, which, says The Equity Center, includes 164 state ISDs -- including Farmersville, Ennis, Blue Ridge, Royse City, Lake Worth and other North Texas districts -- and a handful of residents, among them Kaufman County's Chip Langston.

The suit says, in short, that Texas is completely unconstitutional when it comes to funding its public schools. It alleges that the factors involved in distributing money to districts -- target revenue and weighted average daily attendance (or WADA) -- will eventually cripple smaller districts as more and more cuts take effect with each coming school year:
Before the 82nd Legislature convened in January of 2011, Texas' funding for public education had already become an arbitrary hodge-podge of approaches rather than a coherent system. This hodge-podge, built around a hold-harmless scheme adopted in 2006 called "Target Revenue," resulted in huge differences in yields for similar tax effort that gave property-wealthy districts unconstitutionally greater access to educational dollars. This constitutional inefficiency was compounded in 2011 by SB 1 passed by the 82nd Legislature which reduced school funding formulas by $4 billion dollars in addition to other cuts in excess of $1 billion. In FY 2012, SB1 makes across-the-board percentage reductions to districts' regular program funding. These losses in already low-funded districts have a harsher impact than similar Cuts to a much higher funded district. In FY2013, SB 1 cuts more from districts with Target Revenue, but limits their losses so that they will still have greater resources than the lower wealth districts.
For example:
In 2010-11, at $1.00 tax rate in Tier 1, Austin I.S.D. with approximately 100,000 WADA was funded at $6,100 per WADA and Fort Worth I.S.D. at the same tax rate with similar WADA was funded at $5,100 per WADA, an overall funding gap of $1,000 per WADA. This difference in funding provides Austin I.S.D. with $100 million per year more than the same tax effort makes available to Fort Worth I.S.D.
Read the whole thing here.

Update at 11:40 a.m.: I asked The Equity Center for a full list of North Texas ISDs joining in the suit. Spokesman Josh Haney responds:
We're officially at 164 as of right now. I've included a list of the ISDs that are in North Texas counties below.

We have heard from other North Texas districts like Arlington ISD that are still considering joining the suit. We expect for the total number of districts to double to around 300 during the next few weeks. Please let either me or Lauren know if you have any other questions.

North Texas ISDs
Blue Ridge ISD, Collin
Community ISD, Collin
Farmersville ISD, Collin
Avalon ISD, Ellis
Ennis ISD, Ellis
Italy ISD, Ellis
Bonham ISD, Fannin
Dodd City ISD, Fannin
Fannindel ISD, Fannin
Honey Grove ISD, Fannin
Trenton ISD, Fannin
Boles ISD, Hunt
Campbell ISD, Hunt
Commerce ISD, Hunt
Greenville ISD, Hunt
Quinlan ISD, Hunt
Royse City ISD, Rockwall
Lake Worth ISD, Tarrant


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17 comments
WW
WW

 LINK TO SUIT FILED OCT 11, 2011.http://equitycenter.org/images...

CLAIMING :"The Legislature has substantiallydefaulted on its responsibility to provide an efficient system of education in Texas."

PRAYING :

".. the Court grant the relief set forth above and all other relief to which they may show themselves ENTITLED TO IN EQUITY AND LAW.".Note.. The 1st step is for the State to BEGIN following the LAWS that are already in place.Then begin changes as needed.

John2247
John2247

Royce City having its own school district is nuts when Rockwall is right there.

rumpunch
rumpunch

After reading the suit, it appears that they are suggesting a Statewide property tax in lieu of the local school property taxes.  At that point, the state would divide the total equally among the students. 

Sorry folks:1) Texans don't like taxes2) Texans expecially do not like the idea of state taxes3) Texans really hate property taxes

rumpunch
rumpunch

This is a very complex calculation, the one thing that a reader should understand is that in the example, the revenue per student is not all from the state.  Austin received $158 million from the state (about $1500 per student).  Fort Worth received $293 million from the state (about $2900 per student).  The remaining funds come from local property taxes.  Austin generates about $619 million in general fund property taxes while Fort Worth only receives $255 million.  Austin's state funding is reduced due to its high property tax base. 

Therefore arguments can be made on both sides regarding the inequality of the process.  Do you level the total amount of money the schools have available per student (taxes and state grants), or do you level the amount of state funds the school receives per student (state grants)?

TimCov
TimCov

Personally, I do not think we will ever see the end of these lawsuits until we do one of two things. Either we go to a single state wide school district (though that may not do it), or we stop funding schools at the state level. The problem is, there is no way to fund schools that will make everyone happy. If you say you will only send schools x dollars per student, people will say it is not fair because their expenses are higher or the schools over there are given more resources by the parents. You have people screaming for local control of their schools, yet they do not want to pay for them.

Montemalone
Montemalone

Perhaps it's time to consolidate some of the small town school districts. Go to a county system. Is it really necessary to have those layers of administrators eating up education dollars?So long as the repubs are running the state (into the ground), the money is gonna be spent on crony crap.

rain39
rain39

It keeps us from using the big set-aside fund for anything at all or raising any taxes at the state level.  Conservatives win again!  Who cares about the education of our children?  Certainly not those who think we should not teach evolution which is science and intelligent design which has no scientific method underpinning it.  

Any by the way, let's not do any much if any research in our universities.  Who needs any new knowledge or replicated studies any more?  We already know all we need to know.

Rooster
Rooster

For the life of me, I don't understand what we think we're going to gain by gutting our schools...

rumpunch
rumpunch

I left out one part, Robin Hood.  Austin had to send $123 million of its tax revenue to the State for redistribution.  Therefore this is the calculation (in millions):

                                       Austin              Ft Worth

Tax revenue                        619                  255State Aid                            158                  293Robin Hood recapture         (123)                  -

Total available                      654                 548

Yes Austin has a $100 million more available, yet it only got half the state aid that FW did, generated more than twice the property tax revenue and had to pay the State 20% of that revenue. 

I actually am not picking sides.  Rather I am pointing out the unfairness of the system from both sides.  Due to the lack of consensus our legislators can develop, both sides will fight and no solution will ever be reached.  If one side has a majority of votes, the other side will just sue to block it.

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

Nobody has spent more on crony crap than DISD, which is overwhelmingly staffed by Democrats.

It cannot be possible to have spent more on crony crap than DISD.

I think Repub/Demo distinctions have come to be lost; we now have a Governing Class and the rest of us.  Both parties are in collusion.

But pls don't think I'm defending Repubs...absolutely just as guilty.

Wild Ass Guess
Wild Ass Guess

remaining solvent in light of massive federal debt burden shift to states?

Titus Groan
Titus Groan

Because we don't think they're "our" schools anymore.  A shame, really.

Rooster
Rooster

So to remain "solvent", you're going to gut your intellectual capital, and as a result the future competitiveness and tax income of this state/country?

Makes sense to me....

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

DISD spent $57 million on food and hotel rooms for administrators.Hinojosa was grossly overpaid.Perks and high salaries abound for non-teachers in every school district.

Now all of the people filing these lawsuits will, once again, pay themselves out of tax dollars to contest the end of their personal gravy trains.

I think most taxpayers would be as generous as both Rooster and Titus obviously are IF there were rules in place to prevent the kids from getting ripped off.

The extra money absolutely does not make it to the campuses.  I'm so tired of seeing it hire extra bureaucrats who justify their unnecessary jobs by dreaming up more things for exhausted teachers to do and more tests for innocent kids to endure.

The loss of every bureaucrat so far in DISD has not affected my students at all.  Except for the stupid edu-babble books Ivonne Durant had the taxpayers buy, there's no trace of her in DISD.  That's how "necessary" she and her $180,000 salary were.

The generous spirit of Texans is humbling; the exploitation by school admins all over the state is sickening.

*And, in case you're wondering, even teachers get a lunch break and get time to post...

Rooster
Rooster

Well gosh...then I guess it must be a good idea......

Wild Ass Guess
Wild Ass Guess

Education funding usually takes a big hit during economic hard times.

"The cuts enacted in at least 46 states plus the District of Columbia since 2008 have occurred in all major areas of state services, including health care (31 states), services to the elderly and disabled (29 states and the District of Columbia), K-12 education (34 states and the District of Columbia), higher education (43 states), and other areas."

http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index....

TimCov
TimCov

"I think most taxpayers would be as generous as both Rooster and Titus obviously are IF there were rules in place to prevent the kids from getting ripped off."

I believe you are right. I know someone who is absolutely dead set against paying higher school taxes because every time he has to go to a school or district office there are so many people in the offices doing nothing. 

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