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How long will those school finance lawsuits take?

That depends in part on whether they all get heard together or not.

The massive lawsuit over the state’s method of financing schools, scheduled for trial beginning Oct. 22, could continue into January if two challenges by charter schools are included in the case, District Judge John Dietz said Wednesday.

First, however, Dietz will hold a July 24 hearing to decide whether one of the charter school challenges should be excluded — or at least limited — in the overall lawsuit, a compilation of five separately filed lawsuits.

MALDEF, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, opposes the inclusion of what it calls “political” portions of a lawsuit filed by a pro-charter-school organization — particularly the group’s attempt to remove a state cap limiting the number of charter schools to 215.

That matter is a policy question for the Legislature, not the courts, MALDEF contends.

Lawyers for the charter group, Texans for Real Efficiency and Equity in Education, disagree. On Wednesday, they advised Dietz that if he rules against them, they will appeal and seek to delay the trial until their appeals are exhausted, prompting the judge to urge all sides to schedule a hearing as soon as possible to avoid postponing the October trial date.

“I don’t want any delay,” Dietz said during an informal conference in his Austin courtroom.

Great, another hostage situation. The TREE plaintiffs have different objectives than the other plaintiffs, and I think MALDEF’s point about their issues being for the Lege to decide and not a court is a strong one. If they’re going to pitch a fit because the other kids don’t want to play with them, there’s not much that can be done about it. The other charter school lawsuit is a better fit and seems to have drawn no objections from the other plaintiffs. If all goes more or less as expected, Judge Dietz will rule next year while the Lege is in session, and the Supreme Court will have its say before the 2014 election. That ought to liven up that campaign.

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