The “Efficiency Intervenors” – the group led by former House Public Education Committee chairman Rep. Kent Grusendorf – may remain part of the school finance lawsuits, for now. That was the Aug. 21 ruling of Judge John K. Dietz, the district court judge who will preside over the school finance lawsuits for which proceedings are scheduled to begin Oct. 22, 2012.

Opposition to the intervenors

As TCTA previously reported, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) filed a motion to dismiss the efficiency intervenors’ plea in intervention, which would join the group’s claim onto the pending school finance litigation.

TCTA then filed a brief in support of MALDEF’s motion to dismiss because the “Efficiency Intervenors” are asking the court to eliminate numerous laws beneficial to students and school employees.

The intervenors specifically challenge portions of the Texas Education Code including:

  • elementary class size caps
  • teacher certification requirements
  • the state minimum salary schedule
  • many teacher rights and benefits
  • teacher contract protections

They are requesting that the court declare several specific statutes unconstitutional at the conclusion of the school finance trial.

TCTA’s brief addressed the fact that the “Efficiency Intervenors” do not have legal standing to challenge the constitutionality of the school finance system or individual statutes, and that the court lacks jurisdiction to address the “purely political” questions raised by these intervenors. With regard to “purely political” questions, TCTA noted that the appropriate party to address those concerns is the Legislature. (Read more about TCTA’s amicus brief.)

Hearing outcome

During the Aug. 21 hearing, MALDEF attorney David Hinojosa argued that the intervenors should not be allowed to continue as part of the suit because they simply “cherry-picked” the statutes with which they disagree and asked the court to prescribe to the Legislature how to do its job.

Dietz disagreed, stating that the current school finance lawsuit did have a place for those challenging “qualitative efficiency.” The judge also said that the questions raised by the intervenors were not “purely political” and asked the court to review statutes contained in the Education Code, which is no different than the claims raised by other plaintiffs.

Dietz granted the “Efficiency Intervenors” the opportunity to amend the group’s pleadings “to state a particularized injury” and postponed the decision on the intervenors' standing – whether or not the court has the authority to rule on any or all of their claims – until the trial, which is set to begin Oct. 22, 2012, is concluded.