More school districts looking at school finance lawsuit

From San Antonio.

Trustees of the area’s two largest school districts — North East and Northside — on Tuesday deliberated about joining a lawsuit against the state over what some consider to be an inadequate and inequitable education funding system.

Houston attorney David Thompson, who plans to file a lawsuit, one of several expected over the issue, spoke to trustees of both districts during separate board meetings Tuesday night.

San Antonio, Harlandale and South San Antonio school districts have already joined a lawsuit filed by the Texas Taxpayer & Student Fairness Coalition.


Thompson plans to argue in his lawsuit that once the Legislature adopts standards to meet the state’s constitutional education requirements — such as setting college readiness goals and standardized testing expectations — the state is obligated to fund those mandates.

But because legislators cut school funding by $5 billion this year, Northside cut its budget by $61.4 million and NEISD cut its by $28.4 million.

“Did the Legislature order the highway department to go build roads and bridges that weren’t funded? Of course not,” Thompson said to NEISD trustees. “I wouldn’t want to drive on that bridge. Why would we do that to our kids?”

Thompson said that while the Equity Center lawsuit may draw more districts, he expects his lawsuit to represent more students. The Equity Center lawsuit has drawn more than 285 districts, according to a news release. Thompson said about two dozen districts have joined his lawsuit thus far. East Central ISD is also discussing it.

Depending on their student population, districts could pay up to $65,000 to join Thompson’s lawsuit, which he expects to file in mid-November.

Thompson’s lawsuit is the one that HISD voted to join. Austin ISD has joined the Texas Taxpayer & Student Fairness Coalition/Equity Center lawsuit. They will probably be joined at some point, along with a third lawsuit that will allege that the state is imposing an unconstitutional statewide property tax again, which was what the West Orange-Cove lawsuit was about. In the meantime, it’s a little confusing to keep track of them all – I now realize that I had thought HISD voted to join the Equity lawsuit, not the Thompson one. So many reasons to sue, so little time. Anyway, NEISD and Northside have not made a final decision yet, but I expect they’ll jump in.

UPDATE: I incorrectly started that Austin ISD voted to join the Equity Center lawsuit. They actually joined the Thompson lawsuit. It’s so hard to keep track. My thanks to Jenny LaCoste Caputo of the Texas Association of School Administrators for the catch.

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