Texas schools sue state over fairness of funding


Plaintiffs say a "patchwork" funding system that has been cobbled together over the last several years doesn't treat Texas school children or taxpayers fairly.

The lawsuit, which is expected to be the first of many, was filed by the Texas Taxpayer and Student Fairness Coalition, which represents more than 150 Texas school districts. The suit also names seven school districts as plaintiffs.

It's the first lawsuit since lawmakers slashed $4 billion in public school funding over the summer.

"Succeeding in this lawsuit and attaining an equitable school finance system would enhance our ability to close the achievement gap and offer more educational opportunities for our students," said Robert Duron, San Antonio superintendent. "There is still debate about how to measure the adequacy of the system, but I have no doubt that our current funding system is inequitable."

The lawsuit asks the court to declare that the state's school finance system violates the Texas Constitution.

The lawsuit has been brewing for months. Plaintiffs had hoped the Legislature would address the school funding system during its most recent legislative session. But facing a $27 billion budget shortfall, the Republican-controlled Legislature approved $4 billion in cuts to schools in June, the first decrease in per-student spending in Texas since World War II.

Lauren Cook, a spokeswoman for the Equity Center, which is organizing the coalition, said plaintiffs hope a trial court rules in time to give guidance to lawmakers before they meet for the next regular legislative session in 2013.

The school districts selected to file the suit were Hillsboro, Hutto, Nacogdoches, Pflugerville, San Antonio, Taylor and Van.

Among the defendants named in the suit is Texas Education Agency Commissioner Robert Scott. A spokeswoman for the TEA did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

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