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More Than 150 Texas School Districts Sue State Over Billions in "Unconstitutional" Cuts

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While we await official confirmation from the Dallas Independent School District concerning a well-respected higher-up who was let go yesterday, there's this. As expected, the Austin-based nonprofit The Equity Center ("founded in 1982 by 55 school districts as a response to the gross inequities that existed in the state's school finance system") has at last sued state Commissioner of Education Robert Scott, Texas Comptroller Susan Combs and the Texas State Board of Education over the $4 billion the Legislature carved out of public education over the summer. The suit was actually brought by the Texas Taxpayer & Student Fairness Coalition, which, says The Equity Center, includes 164 state ISDs -- including Farmersville, Ennis, Blue Ridge, Royse City, Lake Worth and other North Texas districts -- and a handful of residents, among them Kaufman County's Chip Langston.

The suit says, in short, that Texas is completely unconstitutional when it comes to funding its public schools. It alleges that the factors involved in distributing money to districts -- target revenue and weighted average daily attendance (or WADA) -- will eventually cripple smaller districts as more and more cuts take effect with each coming school year:

Before the 82nd Legislature convened in January of 2011, Texas' funding for public education had already become an arbitrary hodge-podge of approaches rather than a coherent system. This hodge-podge, built around a hold-harmless scheme adopted in 2006 called "Target Revenue," resulted in huge differences in yields for similar tax effort that gave property-wealthy districts unconstitutionally greater access to educational dollars. This constitutional inefficiency was compounded in 2011 by SB 1 passed by the 82nd Legislature which reduced school funding formulas by $4 billion dollars in addition to other cuts in excess of $1 billion. In FY 2012, SB1 makes across-the-board percentage reductions to districts' regular program funding. These losses in already low-funded districts have a harsher impact than similar Cuts to a much higher funded district. In FY2013, SB 1 cuts more from districts with Target Revenue, but limits their losses so that they will still have greater resources than the lower wealth districts.

For example:

In 2010-11, at $1.00 tax rate in Tier 1, Austin I.S.D. with approximately 100,000 WADA was funded at $6,100 per WADA and Fort Worth I.S.D. at the same tax rate with similar WADA was funded at $5,100 per WADA, an overall funding gap of $1,000 per WADA. This difference in funding provides Austin I.S.D. with $100 million per year more than the same tax effort makes available to Fort Worth I.S.D.

Read the whole thing here.

Update at 11:40 a.m.: I asked The Equity Center for a full list of North Texas ISDs joining in the suit. Spokesman Josh Haney responds:

We're officially at 164 as of right now. I've included a list of the ISDs that are in North Texas counties below.

We have heard from other North Texas districts like Arlington ISD that are still considering joining the suit. We expect for the total number of districts to double to around 300 during the next few weeks. Please let either me or Lauren know if you have any other questions.

North Texas ISDs
Blue Ridge ISD, Collin
Community ISD, Collin
Farmersville ISD, Collin
Avalon ISD, Ellis
Ennis ISD, Ellis
Italy ISD, Ellis
Bonham ISD, Fannin
Dodd City ISD, Fannin
Fannindel ISD, Fannin
Honey Grove ISD, Fannin
Trenton ISD, Fannin
Boles ISD, Hunt
Campbell ISD, Hunt
Commerce ISD, Hunt
Greenville ISD, Hunt
Quinlan ISD, Hunt
Royse City ISD, Rockwall
Lake Worth ISD, Tarrant

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