Education News

State Attorneys Ask Supreme Court to Dismiss School Finance Lawsuit

Lawyers for the school districts argued that state lawmakers have failed to keep up school funding, and that the outdated and complicated system is failing even more students.

The Texas Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday over how the state funds public schools, setting the stage for what could be the most far-reaching school finance case in state history.

During the nearly three-hour hearing, the state’s top attorneys asked the nine justices to drop the lawsuit lodged by almost two-thirds of Texas school districts

Solicitor General Scott Keller said that it’s up to lawmakers to fix it, not the court

“Other states have seen that Texas’ experience and New Jersey’s experience and Arkansas’ experience and various other states’ experience have mired courts in disputes that are left to the legislature,” Keller said.

Lawyers for the districts argued that state lawmakers have failed to keep up school funding, and that the outdated and complicated system is failing even more students.

“We’ve had this ramping up of standards and we’ve had these growing demographics of students who are more expensive to educate,” said Marisa Bono, attorney for MALDEF, representing Edgewood ISD plaintiffs.

It costs more to educate low-income students and children who are learning English. They make up more of Texas school children.

The case stems from 2011, when state lawmakers slashed $5.4 billion from the public education budget.

Even though much of that money has been restored, attorney and former Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson said that the system is failing to prepare students for the 21st century.

“Over half of our low-income freshmen, over half, are not on track to have even a 60-percent chance of getting a C in an introductory college-level course,” Wallace said.

The arguments drew interesting questions and comments from the bench.

“It’s really hard to fathom, at least to me, that if Texas policymakers began with a blank sheet of paper today, that they would create anything resembling sort of the complex, sort of Rube Goldberg contraption that we have,” said Judge Don Willett.

He then asked another one of the state’s attorneys, Rance Craft, how lawmakers should focus their attention.

Reinforcing the state’s main argument, Craft responded that it was not up to anyone in the room to decide, rather the Texas Legislature.

It’s not clear when the court will rule.

If a decision comes next year, however, it could force a special legislative session.


Laura Isensee

Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for Houston Public Media, including K-12 and higher education. Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and contributed to South Florida’s NPR affiliate. Her work has also appeared in The Dallas Morning News, Reuters and Clarín in Argentina. Laura has won awards for...

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