Judge: State funding for education falls short

February 9, 2013

Granbury School Superintendent James Largent agrees with a district judge’s landmark decision that Texas’ system to fund public education violates the state constitution by not giving enough money and failing to distribute the money in a fair way.

It could force the Legislature to overhaul the way it pays for education.

“I think the judge (John Dietz) ruled by saying what most educators have been saying for years: The Legislature is not funding schools at a level that can achieve what they expect,” Largent said. “The last legislative session gave public schools more mandates, much more difficult tests and a call to make all our students “college-ready,” yet they cut funding for education $5.4 billion. That is simply incredible to me and it makes absolutely no sense.”

Attorneys representing about 600 school districts argued that the way Texas funds its schools is “woefully inadequate and hopelessly broken.”

School districts and taxpayers shouldn’t expect change any time soon, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

“An appeal to the Texas Supreme Court is certain, and that process could take a year or more,” the paper said. “The all-Republican high court might not be as receptive to the school districts’ arguments as was Dietz, a Travis County Democrat.”

The Granbury superintendent said the judge’s ruling should tell lawmakers that if Texas wants to compete with the world in education, then it should provide adequate funding.

“He (the judge) made mention that it would take an additional $2,000 per student (or about $11 billion) to meet what the Legislature is expecting from us, but he will release a full-written ruling where we hope he will be very descriptive of what needs to happen regarding funding,” Largent said. “Until we see that, we can only speculate what his final ruling will detail.”

Changes, if any, probably would occur much later, Largent said.

“I don’t think it will impact us much in the immediate future, other than not being able to restore many of the cuts we had to make,” Largent said. “I believe that, unfortunately, the Legislature will wait until the Supreme Court rules on the case before they do anything regarding school funding. That will likely take up to two years. So, in the meantime, we will remain in the same system we have now, even though the judge’s ruling was very clear that public schools need more funding to meet the expectation the legislators have for us.”

Tolar School Superintendent Bruce Gibbs agreed with Largent.

“I am very pleased with Judge Dietz’s decision,” Gibbs said. “His ruling was no surprise to school districts, we all knew that state funding was not equal or adequate, and state of Texas has reduced the funding to schools districts at the same time they have increased accountability standards.”

This article includes information from the Snyder Daily News.

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