The Texas Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments Tuesday morning in what some have called the most far-reaching school finance lawsuit in state history.
Texas is appealing a 2014 lower court ruling that struck down the state’s system of funding public schools as unconstitutional.
Last August, Travis County District Court Judge John Dietz sided with more than 600 school districts that sued the state after state lawmakers slashed $5.4 billion from the public education budget; He concluded that the state's school finance system is unconstitutional not only because of inadequate funding and flaws in the way it distributes money to the state's more than 1,000 regular school districts, but also because it imposes a de facto state property tax. In addition to the state, Dietz also ruled against two groups that did not represent traditional school districts — Texans for Real Efficiency and Equity in Education (the "Efficiency Intervenors") and the Texas Charter School Association — concluding that the Legislature was the more appropriate entity to address the issues they raised at trial.
Then-Attorney General Greg Abbott, now the state's governor, appealed Dietz's ruling directly to the state Supreme Court, which agreed to hear it. It is the sixth time since 1984 that a case challenging the state’s school finance system has reached the state’s high court.
The schedule for Tuesday’s 2.5-hour appeal hearing is as follows:
- 45 minutes - State defendants' oral argument
- 10 minutes - Efficiency intervenors' oral argument
- 10 minutes - Charter school plaintiffs' oral argument
- 60 minutes - School district plaintiffs' oral argument
- 15 minutes - State defendants' rebuttal
- 5 minutes - Efficiency intervenors' rebuttal
- 5 minutes - Charter school plaintiffs' rebuttal
Lawmakers have added back more than 90 percent of the $5.4 billion cut from public education in 2011 to help balance a post-recession budget shortfall. However, state data shows many school districts still are feeling the crunch.