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First school finance lawsuit filed

More will follow, it’s just a matter of when and how many.

A coalition representing public school districts, taxpayers and parents filed a lawsuit against the state in Travis County district court Monday night. The Texas Taxpayer & Student Fairness Coalition claims the state’s public school finance system is unconstitutional because it does not treat Texas taxpayers and school children fairly.

[…]

The group of more than 150 school districts represented by the coalition continues to grow daily, and many more districts, taxpayers, parents and even business owners are expected to formally join in the coming months, Gray said.

Named as plaintiffs to represent the Texas Taxpayer & Student Fairness Coalition are the Hillsboro, Hutto, Nacogdoches, Pflugerville, San Antonio, Taylor, and Van independent school districts.

The trustees of the Houston Independent School District are expected to meet Thursday to discuss possible legal options, according to HISD spokesman Jason Spencer.

As noted in the wire story, this is the Equity Center lawsuit that I have blogged about before. You can read their press release here, and a copy of the complaint they filed here. Needless to say, I look forward to seeing this play out.

The actual filing comes a couple of days after this Statesman story about the state of the anticipated litigation, which has a succinct summary of what’s at stake.

At least three legal teams representing different types of school districts intend to file lawsuits soon.

Each of the lawsuits, while making somewhat different claims, will center on the 48 words included in the Texas Constitution since 1876 that require the Legislature to provide an “efficient system of public free schools.”

Schools argue that the system is anything but efficient because, they say, funding levels are arbitrary, irrational and inequitable.

They maintain that the Legislature has once again levied a statewide property tax, which is constitutionally prohibited.

Finally, they say funding is inadequate to prepare students to meet the state’s standards, which have been ratcheted up in recent years.

The lawsuits will be combined for a trial that would probably be held next fall in Travis County, which could produce a district court ruling in time for the 2013 legislative session. A direct appeal to the Texas Supreme Court would almost certainly follow.

In other words, despite the Equity Center’s hope of a 2013 conclusion, which would be in time for the next regular legislative session, we likely won’t get a resolution to this until 2015. It is possible that the Supreme Court could mandate a deadline before then, however, as was the case with the 2005 West Orange-Cove lawsuit, which required a special session to meet its 2006 goal. On the plus side, that ought to make fixing school finance a genuine issue for the 2014 elections. I can hope, can’t I? There’s a lot more detail in the story, so read the whole thing.

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  1. […] for each of the known lawsuits; the Texas Taxpayer and Student Fairness Coalition has already filed its suit, while the Thompson suit is still in the works. At this point I’m more interested in the […]