Photo of scales of justiceFour lawsuits filed against the State of Texas have been consolidated into one court case that will be heard Oct. 22, 2012, by Travis County District Judge John Dietz. Dietz will also consider a plea in intervention filed by a group spearheaded by former House Public Education Chairman Kent Grusendorf asking for massive deregulation and more charter schools.

Following is an overview of each of the lawsuits and the plea in intervention. Also see Resources ≠ Expectations: Analysis of the 2012 school finance litigation.

Fort Bend ISD, et al. v. Scott

The players: Largely urban and suburban districts, including Dallas and Houston ISDs, with mostly average or above-average property wealth per student, led by attorney David Thompson, who prevailed in the last successful school finance lawsuit

The arguments:

  • The school finance system is again a prohibited statewide property tax.
  • State mandates, such as requiring teacher pay raises, detracts from meaningful discretion to set local property tax rates.
  • The finance system is inadequate.

Texas Taxpayer & Student Fairness Coalition, et al. v. Scott

The players: Largely low- to mid-property wealth school districts and representative taxpayers in those districts, led by the Equity Center, an association of mostly property-poor school districts and a major player in the first successful school finance lawsuit

The arguments:

  • The school finance system is inequitable for the following reasons:
  • Rich districts have $1,000 more funding per weighted pupil than poor districts.
  • The first 6 cents of tax effort above the target revenue level is not subject to the so-called “Robin Hood” system of recapture.
  • Taxes raised by districts for facilities funding are not subject to recapture, leading to even greater disparity in funding.
  • The school finance system is again a prohibited statewide property tax.
  • The finance system is inadequate.

Edgewood ISD, et al. v. Scott

The players: Property-poor school districts and representative parents and children in those districts, led by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), the other major player in the first successful school finance lawsuit

The arguments:

  • Equity (similar arguments to Texas Taxpayer & Student Fairness Coalition)
  • Adequacy issues, including the state’s failure to achieve education college readiness as provided in the state’s accountability system, particularly with regard to English Language Learners and low-income students

Calhoun County ISD, et al. v. Scott

The players: School districts with above-average property wealth per student where local tax collections are subject to recapture under the so-called “Robin Hood” system

The arguments:

  • The finance system is inadequate.
  • The school finance system is again a prohibited statewide property tax. (The plaintiff notes that the more than $1 billion annually redistributed from wealthier districts is a significant factor in determining whether a statewide property tax has been created.)

Plea in Intervention of self-styled “Efficiency Intervenors”

The players: Several representative parents, students and taxpayers as well as a nonprofit corporation called Texans for Real Efficiency and Equity in Education, led by Executive Director Kent Grusendorf, the former House Public Education Committee chairman

The arguments:

  • The statutory cap on charter schools breeds inefficiency, as do many of the provisions of Chapter 21 of the Texas Education Code (the chapter containing teacher certification standards, rights and benefits). For example, personnel decisions are seldom made in the best interests of students and current laws make it difficult to hire and efficiently compensate the most effective teachers and remove poor-performing teachers.
  • Statutory provisions restrict districts from converting to Home-Rule School Districts, which are not subject to virtually any provisions relating to teacher rights and benefits, student discipline, or even parental and student rights contained in the Education Code.
  • A lack of consumer-driven competition causes the system to be inherently inefficient.