School-finance system takes another hit

Posted by John Kanelis on

Hey, have we been down this road before?

A state district judge, John Dietz, has thrown a serious obstacle in front of the Texas public school system. It violates the Texas Constitution, Dietz said, because of its distribution of money to independent school districts and because it levies a de facto state property tax.

Judge: Texas School Finance System Unconstitutional

Deitz's 400-page ruling is going to face a certain appeal by the state, but many elements of it seem quite familiar.

The state has fought to make its funding system constitutional through a number of methods. Let's recall Robin Hood, the system that takes money from "property-rich" districts and distributes it to "property-poor" districts. That system's intent was to level the financial playing field among districts.

The court ruled in the wake of a lawsuit that was filed after the Legislature cut $5.4 billion for public education.

So, here we go yet again.

The state will fight to overturn a judge's ruling. The Legislature will convene in January and will face the prospect of looking for another public education funding strategy to avoid future court battles.

How will legislators respond? That might depend on the election coming up and who gets elected governor or, more importantly, lieutenant governor. Texas will have new people in both offices, as Gov. Rick Perry didn't run for another term and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst was defeated in this year's Republican Party primary runoff.

It might be that the new lieutenant governor -- whether it's Republican Dan Patrick or Democrat Leticia Van de Putte -- will hold the key to how the Senate tackles this apparently constant problem with public school finance.

Will this ruling settle the issue once and for all? Maybe ... but don't bet on it.

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